Bradley Smith's move to KTM has boosted team-mate Pol Espargaro's chances of remaining at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 for the 2017 MotoGP season.
Speaking in Qatar the day before Smith was announced as joining the new KTM project, Yamaha Racing boss Lin Jarvis confirmed the factory wants Tech 3 to function as its 'Junior Team' by bringing on fresh talent.
But Jarvis also signalled that one of the current Tech 3 riders was likely to stay.
“Firstly the team is run by Herve [Poncharal], as you know, and at the end of the day it is Herve's choice. But we talk a lot together, try to make our plan and strategy together. We [Yamaha] are involved sometimes in the rider's contracts,” Jarvis began.
“So the 'Junior Team' is the concept that we would like to have there and obviously part of that concept is you are raising somebody, and hopefully improving their talent, so that when they are ready they can take a spot at the factory team. That is the basic idea.
“But sometimes the opportunities are not there and we've seen that with Jorge and Vale being together so far, for so many years [in the factory team]. Even if you've got a super talent, you've got nowhere to place them.
“So with regards to Tech 3 riders, we will firstly deal with the factory team and then we will move on towards deciding for the future. I imagine that one of the current riders will remain and I imagine that probably some new talent will come.
“But if we get to a situation where we find that both of [the current tech 3 riders] are really happy, and are performing really well, they could continue.”
Espargaro joined Tech 3 as the reigning Moto2 world champion in 2014, when it appeared likely that a vacancy would soon appear at the factory team.
But after a one-two in last year's standings, Valentino Rossi has already re-signed until the end of 2018, with a two-year offer also on the table for reigning champion Lorenzo.
“Succession planning is one thing, but if you have the two best riders in the world you can wait,” Jarvis declared. “So the ideal scenario is both Vale and Jorge continue with us, then we can worry about our succession plan two years later. And maybe we can solve that by bringing in some young talent into the Tech 3 team.
“It's always difficult. You need to have a space, you've got to have a window where you can put somebody in [the factory team]. Obviously Honda had that a couple of years ago when they were able to encourage the rules to be adjusted, and they were able to take Marc straight into their factory team.
“That was a masterpiece that they did and they took the hottest young rider. But we did the same with Jorge several years before [before the rule was in place]. This is Jorge's ninth season in a row, that doesn't happen very often in this sport. And Valentino is in his eleventh year with Yamaha.
“So I think the consistency of our programme in general is something quite remarkable and that's a reflection on the way we work with our riders as well. We do what we say we're going to do. But yeah, sometimes people decide to do something else.”
Moto2 star Alex Rins is top of most people's list for a 2017 Tech 3 seat, with the factory team tipped to make a serious bid for the likes of Suzuki's Maverick Vinales should Lorenzo leave.
Espargaro (or Rins) would also be a factory option under such a scenario, although Espargaro would need to improve significantly on last year's ninth overall.
“If Jorge left the person we take as replacement would not be able to match his immediate performance level. No doubt,” Jarvis said.
"As every team you need a Plan B and Plan C, so we have some ideas in our mind [if Lorenzo does not re-sign]. The riders are pretty obvious because everyone will be looking at who is the next possible young talent, but I'm not prepared to comment on names.”
By Peter McLaren