Pol Espargaro has denied rumours that surfaced on Friday at Mugello that he was mulling over an offer to ride in Avintia Ducati colours in 2017.
The Tech 3 rider, currently contracted direct to the Yamaha factory, stated that he has no future contract on the table with either Ducati or Yamaha, and that money was not his main motivation in deciding a future deal.
“I have no contract on the table,” said the younger Espargaro brother on Friday evening, after ending the first day of free practice tenth fastest, just a tenth of a second slower than Valentino Rossi's best lap time.
“Yes, I hear this [Avintia rumour] also, but I even sit with Hervé [Poncharal – current team boss], with Yamaha, and they didn't give to me a contract. It is the same with Ducati. So we are waiting, but everything here is so fast, even in my side, so I have nothing. Maybe it's true, maybe they want me, but I have nothing.
“I have talked, just a normal talk, but to make a decision, you have to have the contract on the table. For me, money is not the main target, but you have to have something clear to be able to choose, but I have nothing.”
The former Moto2 world champion was also guarded when speaking of his ideal situation, and preferred to remain enigmatic on the subject of his intentions.
“This is another thing! This something completely different! [Laughs] I have to wait until I speak with them to ask them, but right now, I cannot say.”
Poncharal told Crash.net in Le Mans that his intention was to keep Espargaro in his squad for a fourth consecutive season in 2016, as he seeks to couple experience alongside class rookie Jonas Folger.
Furthermore, Yamaha's managing director Lin Jarvis confirmed that a seat in the satellite Tech 3 squad 'remains available', in spite of some fairly strongly worded statements, that included “Pol still needs to improve himself.”
“Pol, we haven't considered him for the factory ride,” Jarvis told the press on Thursday, when explaining Movistar Yamaha's signing of Maverick Viñales.
“We haven't considered him, because his performances over the past years have not been consistent enough and high level enough to warrant the factory ride. Last year, Bradley was ahead of Pol in the championship, that was a disappointing season.
“So far, Pol has begun the championship better, but he is still quite a gap behind the leaders in each and every race. I think Pol still needs to improve himself. I think the bike he has now is capable of better results than he is achieving. Would he do better in a factory team? Possibly yes. Possibly, slightly yes.
“Because a factory team normally has just that little bit extra, little bit better. But Pol is still seriously considered as a rider for Tech 3, Hervé has said that the place remains available to Pol until the moment that Pol decides not to take it. So I hope Pol will continue to mature as a rider, and maybe he can be a factory rider in the future."
When Jarvis was asked whether Yamaha would consider providing a full factory bike for Espargaro for 2017, he replied, “He has a factory bike.
“The similarity between the factory bikes and Tech 3 bikes is incredibly close. We're using 2015 chassis, they're using a 2015 chassis. You can see that there are a few small developments, a few new things that we have, but honestly the difference in performance between the bikes is marginal. In the last race, Pol qualified fourth. You don't qualify fourth ahead of factory riders if the bike isn't quick. So what Pol has to do is to translate that speed into race results.”
A day later and Espargaro responded, saying he is currently “waiting” before he signs anything.
“At least, I have no time. I have other options to take a decision, but I don't know. They are waiting. I know that I am not as important as the factory riders, but if someone wants me, they will be the ones to push me to sign. I am waiting.”
While the sideshow of MotoGP's silly season has clearly had negative repercussions for several riders, Espargaro stated that he thrives when under added pressure, as his results in both 2015 as a class rookie, and 2016 showed.
“I think no, [it doesn't affect me] because in me, something that is really strange is that I need motivation. And when I'm under pressure, for example, in the first year, with everyone looking at me, what will you do with Yamaha, I did a very good year.
“Then last year, what was my target last year? Nothing! And everything was not really good. And this year, I have to sign a contract again. You know, I need motivation, and this year I have it. Plus, last year we struggled a lot with the tires, and this year the tire changed to Michelin, and this is very important also. But at least when I am under pressure, I work well.”