Aleix Espargaro has revealed that he feels underappreciated by Suzuki in the wake of Andrea Iannone's recent signing and has stated that he and his manager may now adopt “a new strategy” in terms of planning for 2017.
MotoGP's current rider market merry-go-round was in full swing in the build up to Mugello, as the confirmation of Maverick Viñales' departure from Suzuki was quickly followed by the announcement of Iannone's arrival.
With Espargaro yet to seriously start negotiations with the Japanese factory over a contract renewal, the Catalan was irked by the timing of the Iannone announcement, as well as the fact that he did not learn of the move through a courtesy call from Suzuki's management.
“It's not that I'm not happy,” said the elder Espargaro, who has finished inside the top six at each of the past three races.
“I'm a little bit sad because I thought that I was more valuable to Suzuki. I feel that I deserved a little bit more respect. Things are like this. Suzuki obviously made a really great job taking Iannone.
“After Maverick left to Yamaha one of the only good, top riders in the market was Iannone so good job for Suzuki. But the way they did it… They announce really quick. We haven't started to talk yet. I expected something different.
“I don't really know [about another rider potentially taking his seat]. I heard Zarco. I heard Rins. I don't know. It's not anything that I can control. All I can do is try and be competitive on the track. The last three races we've finished in the top six. I think I deserve something more. After these two years developing the bike. When I arrived at Suzuki the bike was very bad. We did a great job developing the bike with the team, doing a good job together.
“This year in the last three races both riders were at the top so for me it would be crazy to change both riders. But it's nothing that depends on me.”
The 26-year old went on to explain how he had not yet held serious negotiations with the Hamamatsu factory regarding 2017, and that the announcement may force him to reconsider his strategy in deciding on future plans.
“Actually I said to my manager [Albert Valera] that I don't want to talk to anybody because my priority was to stay with Suzuki but after these last 48 hours we should change the strategy.
“The thing is that we have really good options. After these last three races, and the job that we did with the Suzuki, is great. We have great options but we haven't started talking yet.
“The priority is always to stay because I am really grateful to Suzuki because they gave me a really great opportunity. Obviously I want to continue working with them. The last two days were a little strange and I'm a little sad.”
Rumours within the MotoGP paddock suggest Suzuki may turn its attention to Moto2 title leader Alex Rins as its second rider, with a sprinkling of youthful exuberance complimenting Iannone's experience and proven speed.
On the topic of this, Espargaro said that he would not dwell on the factory's hiring policy. Achieving results on the track is currently his best means to respond.
“It can be. For me the most important thing is to put both bikes on top, like Maverick and me are doing now and in the last rounds. But, you know, I'm not the boss of Suzuki. I can't decide. If they want a younger rider, and with 26 years old I am old, I don't know… The only thing I can do is to be competitive on the track and make the decision difficult for them.”
Asked whether the news has given him more motivation going into the sixth round, Espargaro added, “Yeah, but more motivation is more difficult. I'm really, really motivated always to fight.
“To fight with this young kid (Maverick) is really difficult. He is really fast. In the last races I push very hard. I work very hard with Tom [O'Kane – crew chief] to change the setting for the race. We showed a good level. Obviously I am really motivated but nothing has changed [with regards to this] because of the future.”