Stefan Bradl has confirmed that he will not continue with Aprilia in 2016, adding that he is 'not looking around in only MotoGP' for prospective rides.
Speaking on Thursday afternoon in the Assen paddock, the German explained how he came to understand of the news in Barcelona, and that he expected an imminent announcement that would confirm Aleix Espargaro's arrival in the squad for 2017.
“I got the message that they are not continuing with me,” said the 26-year old. “Well, it's not a nice feeling for me right now. It's a pity because I feel at home here and very good, with the guys around. With the project I feel good.
“But the company decided to go in a different way. We all know this paddock is a big business. In the end they decided to do this and life still goes on, the world is not going down. We're still working in the same way but there's a different feeling now.
“Basically it was in Barcelona I got some messages. Not messages but you always hear the rumours that are around. There are a few rumours that you cannot believe. There are a few that you trust a little bit. I've been mixed up in it myself so I know where to settle myself and finally I got the message.”
Bradl also added, “I know that Aleix Espargaro will announce this very, very soon,” as reports suggested the Catalan was due to mention a deal with Aprilia in the pre-event press conference on Thursday evening.
However, the elder Espargaro's plans were impacted by an air strike in France, which severely delayed his trip to the Netherlands, meaning he was not present to make any such announcement.
26-year old Espargaro denied that he has signed the contract on Twitter, saying “I've still not signed anything,” but several Spanish media outlets - including sports dailies AS
- claim he was due to finalise his contract with Aprilia on Thursday before announcing the move in the press conference.
Sources close to Aprilia expect his move to be confirmed at the beginning of next week.
Asked where he would turn to for a ride in 2017, Bradl said that he was still unsure. “Actually, I don't know,” he continued. “I've just started to look around to see what the future can bring. I'm not looking around only in MotoGP. Like you say there are not so many good seats left. The Superbike is also an option but I hope I can find some guys to walk with. I'm sure also that something will come up.
On whether staying in MotoGP was the priority, he added, “Not the priority. We'll see. It's too early to say something right now. It's still very fresh, that I got the message that Aprilia will go in a different way. Right now I'm ready to speak but it depends on how my feeling is. I cannot say something concrete now.”
Current team-mate Alvaro Bautista was less clear on his future plans. While it is widely believed that only some minor details need to be clarified in Espargaro's deal, Bautista suggested that “anything can happen.”
“Well, still the decision is not taken,” said the Spaniard. “Aprilia told me that they want me to remain in the team but they already signed a contract with Lowes. It's a difficult situation, no?
“At the moment they are working to have me in the team. I'm just working for them and looking for other teams. I have to be prepared in case there is no more space for me here. In the end it's Aprilia's decision.
“I started this project with Aprilia with a lot of motivation. Last year was a strange year because the bike was not a MotoGP bike, more a laboratory bike. It's like one year thrown into the bin. This year the bike arrived too late. We didn't have the time to try and improve it during the winter test, where it is easier to do so than a GP weekend.
“I think we are making some small progress. The bike after seven races is more or less the same as in the first race in Qatar. Practically nothing changed. We'll see what happens but at the moment I can say that I made the bike. They made the bike with my comments and my requests.
“I think it's 50/50,” was his reply when asked to rate his chances of remaining in Aprilia colours in 2017. “Now the situation is difficult. They want three riders but they only have two bikes. Also Lowes has a contract. In this world everything can happen!”
Would staying in MotoGP remain his top priority?
“Yeah, sure. This is my priority.”
And with a Spanish team, with a satellite Ducati outfit rumoured to be interested? “It could be,” he added with a mischievous grin. “It's one option.”