Who is Raul Fernandez and why is Yamaha and KTM fighting for his signature?

A bidding war has broken out between Yamaha and KTM to secure the services of star Moto2 rookie Raul Fernandez for the 2022 MotoGP World Championship

Raul Fernandez - KTM Ajo Moto2

The conclusion of the Dutch TT has heralded the start of SPRING BREAK - well, the summer break - for the MotoGP paddock, a time for riders, bosses and mechanics to take a well earned rest and some stock of the season’s first half.

However, it won’t be a vacation for all, not least managers of riders with some loose ends to tie up on potential contracts for 2022. 

Chief among these is Raul Fernandez, a name on everyone’s lips come the end of the weekend after he was elevated almost overnight to being a hot candidate to join one of two MotoGP teams for the 2022 season. 

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If you follow Moto2 then Fernandez will need little introduction as yet another Spanish hotshot being tipped for greatness in future. However, even by Spain’s lofty standards, Fernandez - in his third season of GP racing - is being touted very highly, so much so that a bidding war has reportedly broken out to secure his services in the premier class for next season.

Why is Raul Fernandez suddenly so in demand for MotoGP teams?

We have Maverick Vinales to thank for this one. The eight-time race winner is the wobbly piece at the start of a domino-effect poised to fall once it is confirmed he is annulling his Yamaha contract at the end of 2022 in favour of a shock switch to Aprilia, despite his deal intended to run to the end of 2023.

Once confirmed it leaves a very high-profile available seat in a Yamaha Factory team currently leading the standings with Fabio Quartararo. If and when this happens, it is almost certain 2020 MotoGP runner-up Franco Morbidelli will be elevated into the works team, thus leaving his Petronas SRT seat vacant.

Indeed, Petronas SRT Yamaha could well find itself with two seats up for grabs depending on which way Valentino Rossi’s decision swings regarding his future, which is split between either trying to negotiate a stay with Yamaha for 2022, retire or join his newly-graduating VR46 Racing Ducati set up.

So.... Yamaha or KTM?

It seems Yamaha wants to move quickly to get its hands on Fernandez but it faces a challenge to not only convince the 20-year old to join but also a hefty bill to buy him out of his cast-iron contract with KTM, for whom he races in in Moto2 as part of its deal with Ajo Motorsport.

Indeed, KTM has shown it has an eye for talent and is currently basking in the race-winning success of its proteges Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder, while it holds a 1-2 in Moto2 with Remy Gardner and Fernandez, plus the Moto3 lead with rookie Pedro Acosta.

With Gardner already getting the nod to progress to MotoGP with Tech 3 Racing, KTM had originally planned to give Fernandez another year in Moto2 before an almost certain promotion for 2023. However, Yamaha’s interest, plus Fernandez’s excellent season that already includes three wins, could bring this forward in order to repel interest from elsewhere. 

That would spell bad news for Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona, who had been led to believe they were competing for the remaining vacant Tech 3 seat for 2022. 

Assuming Fernandez does want to join Yamaha and KTM is willing to let go of what could be a very valuable asset, it will make the Iwata firm pay to the tune of a reported €500,000.

That said, with KTM putting huge faith and resource behind its riders to excellent effect, would Yamaha appeal to young Fernandez?

He’s saying very little and towing the party line of assuming he is doing Moto2 next season, but come the end of the summer break a very important part of the 2022 MotoGP jigsaw is likely to fall into place.