Pol Espargaro rejected Suzuki in 2015 after betting on Rossi retirement

Pol Espargaro reveals he rejected a Suzuki approach for the 2015 MotoGP season after being encouraged to stay in expectation of Valentino Rossi's retirement

Valentino Rossi, Pol Espargaro

Pol Espargaro has revealed his MotoGP career might have taken a very different direction had he accepted an offer from Suzuki to head up its return to the premier class in 2015 instead of staying with Yamaha.

The Spaniard - younger brother of fellow MotoGP rider Aleix Espargaro - made his MotoGP debut with the satellite Tech 3 Yamaha team in 2014 after clinching the Moto2 title the previous year.

After an impressive rookie campaign on the Yamaha M1, Espargaro was a man in demand and was on the shortlist for Suzuki to form one-half of its rider line-up on its return to the class following a three-year hiatus.

Despite the temptation of joining a factory team, Espargaro was encouraged to remain within the Yamaha fold on the expectation that Valentino Rossi would retire from racing in the near future and he would be next in line for the works seat.

However, Rossi would go on to continue racing, leading Espargaro to join the incoming KTM Factory team in 2018, kick-starting a difficult development process that began reaping rewards in 2020 just as he’d accepted an offer to join Repsol Honda for 2021.

“After my first year with Yamaha in MotoGP, I finished sixth, very close to the fifth place which was held by Dovizioso with the Ducati. It was the year that Suzuki was going to come back to MotoGP and I got an offer.

“At that time I had promises from Yamaha, I spoke to them while imagining the retirement of Valentino Rossi . After my first year in MotoGP and finishing in the top five, they said to me 'wait, bcause maybe you will go to the factory team'.”

Gallingly for the six-time podium winner, Suzuki went on to sign rookie Maverick Vinales for that inaugural campaign, who subsequently landed the Yamaha factory seat in 2017 ahead of Espargaro.

“At that moment I said to myself ‘okay, I made the wrong decision, I should have gone with them when I had the opportunity’.

“I should have gone to a new factory when I was strong. Being a factory rider in MotoGP is important to learn and grow as a rider, it teaches you a lot of things. So I thought to myself that if another factory offered me a MotoGP contract again, I had to take it."

He goes on to say that his experience in rejecting Suzuki was the motivating factor behind his decision to take on the KTM challenge.

“Then, I saw the KTM project. Suzuki was different, because they had already switched to MotoGP, but KTM was totally new. But I told myself that if I didn't accept it and then they would start to win or get good results, I would kill myself.

“Finally, we started to make podiums and pole positions. I think it was one of the best decisions of my life, even though I suffered a lot. During the first race, I finished last, and when I arrived at the box everyone was very happy because we had finished the race.. Imagine the level where we were at that time.”