Yamaha have confirmed that Pol Espargaro will leave the Tech 3 team the end of the 2016 MotoGP season.
The Spaniard's destination is not yet official, but he is widely rumoured to be joining team-mate Bradley Smith in switching to the new KTM team.
The full Yamaha statement can be seen below:
"Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. announce that Yamaha and Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team-rider Pol Espargaró will go their separate ways at the close of the 2016 MotoGP season, when the Spaniard will start new racing challenges.
"Espargaró joined the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team in 2014, following his championship victory in the Moto2 class the year before. The currently 24-year old adapted to the YZR-M1 quickly, as was displayed when he qualified second for the fifth race in Le Mans and claimed the accolade of 'rookie of the year' as well as 'top satellite MotoGP rider' with a sixth place overall finish.
"Espargarò followed up this successful year by taking ninth place in the final rankings in the 2015 season, with the highlight of finishing as the highest satellite team rider in Assen and Valencia with two fifth places.
"In addition to the MotoGP program, Espargarò also secured the win for Yamaha at the 2015 Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race where he teamed up with Tech3 teammate Bradley Smith and Katsuyuki Nakasuga.
"Espargarò will team up once again this year with Katsuyuki Nakasuga and new rider Alex Lowes in an attempt to secure back-to-back wins for the Yamaha Factory Team.
"So far this season Espargaró holds seventh place with 48 points in the 2016 MotoGP World Championship standings and has been the leading independent team rider since the start of the 2016 campaign, finishing three times as the best independent rider in Losail, Jerez, and Le Mans.
"Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. look back with great appreciation on Espargaró's contributions to its racing successes over the past two and a half years and wish Espargaró the very best in furthering his racing career.
"Yamaha and the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team will continue to put their full efforts into finishing the 2016 season with Espargaró in the best possible manner and hope to share many more memorable moments during the upcoming twelve MotoGP rounds of the 2016 World Championship.
"The 2017 Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team replacement for Pol Espargaró will be announced in due course."
Moto2 race winner Jonas Folger is the only confirmed Tech 3 MotoGP rider for 2017.
So who will replace Pol?
This is what team boss Herve Poncharal told Crash.net after signing Folger in mid-May
“If [Pol] is not with us next year, do we want an experienced rider or another rookie? I don't know yet. We have to explore all the options. The situation is that you have four factories - Honda, Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki - who are the priority and will get the best riders.
“Once they are full we will be able to see who is left. And maybe there will be a name that we don't think is going to be left - a big name - and that could be very exciting for us. I always remember when we had the Crutchlow-Dovizioso line-up, it was incredibly successful. A really strong season.”
In terms of a 'big name', Crutchlow (eight podiums) is now the most successful rider yet to be confirmed for 2017, although there is an option on him at LCR.
Regarding a second rookie, the obvious candidates would be Alex Rins - if he changes his mind about only wanted a factory team - or fellow Moto2 star Johann Zarco.
But Suzuki is the expected priority for Rins and the factory also has some kind of option on reigning Moto2 champion Zarco, due to test for the team in the summer. However unless a satellite GSX-RR arrives Suzuki are unlikely to have room for the Frenchman, clearing the way for Tech 3 to do a deal with their 'home' rider.