Hafizh Syahrin will remain in MotoGP in 2019, but not as part of a rumoured new Sepang Yamaha team.

Talk in the Mugello paddock suggests Ducati's Jorge Lorenzo could be thrown a MotoGP lifeline in the form of a return to Yamaha - and that the new satellite team could be run by SIC, which already has a Moto2 and Moto3 team, with backing from Petronas.

The Malaysian connections meant many also assumed that, if the team happens, home star Hafizh Syahrin would be Lorenzo's team-mate.

But while confirming Petronas are interested in such a project, Sepang CEO Dato' Razlan Razali said they are yet to reach an agreement for a MotoGP grid place, let alone start discussions with the likes of Lorenzo and Yamaha.

Such uncertainty means Razali couldn't afford to wait and risk Syahrin being left without a seat for 2019, if the Petronas project doesn't materialise.

Instead, Syahrin is set to continue in MotoGP with another team, at least for now.

"The stories about Lorenzo and Hafizh Syahrin in Yamaha - it's definitely not happening," Razali said at Mugello on Friday.

"The team will announce Hafizh Syahrin's direction very, very soon.

"But the story of Hafizh and Lorenzo in a satellite Yamaha team with Petronas is not true."

Syahrin, currently in his rookie MotoGP season with Tech3 Yamaha, has a strong chance of staying at the French squad as it moves to KTM machinery next year.

Meanwhile Franco Morbidelli looks most likely to ride alongside Lorenzo, at whichever team takes on the 2019 satellite Yamahas.

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But would it not be strange if the Sepang-Petronas project goes ahead without home star Syahrin?

"It's not straightforward. [The proposed MotoGP team] involves a lot of planning and uncertainties and we are aware that the number of 2019 seats is slowly being taken up," Razali explained.

"So I don’t want our [MotoGP team] uncertainties to affect Hafizh Syahrin's career.

"Hafizh Syahrin's career is number one for me. Until it's a done deal and I have the piece of mind to know that Malaysians will continue to enjoy Hafizh Syahrin in the world championship in 2019.

"Also, Hafizh Syahrin needs to really focus for the rest of the year without thinking, 'where am I going next year?'

"Hopefully that [2019 Syahrin deal] is more or less done. Now I can think about a potential new [MotoGP team] project.

"But the door is not closed for Hafizh. If this [Petronas MotoGP team] happens it's partly for Malaysian development as well, coming through the ranks. Hafizh's career should be at least ten years, so this [Petronas MotoGP team] opportunity should come for him later."

With MotoGP grid numbers limited to 24 places, the two main options for Sepang-Petronas are thought to be either a takeover of the Marc VDS grid places, or some kind of merger with the cash-strapped Aspar team.

"It's always best to start everything new," Razali said.

"Everybody has their own style, we have our own style and we want to ensure if the opportunity arises for MotoGP that style is the same and I need to protect my sponsors. Petronas is a huge company in Malaysia and globally.

"For us credibility of a team is important. Presentation is important. Reputation is important. And most importantly, we are an international team. We don’t want a team to be dominated by a certain nationality. So that is our style, we think it's important so we want to make sure we maintain that in the premier-class, if it is available to us.

"So we prefer to start fresh rather than with another team."

Razali agreed that the possible chance to work with a multiple world champion like Lorenzo would be a big plus for Petronas.

"Potentially coming into MotoGP, Petronas are looking at a couple of key factors: Number one is to be able to develop their oil and lubricants with the engine. Number two is performance, to be able to win. And then of course branding and everything that comes with it.

"Again, there's still a lot of variables - I don't know what Yamaha have to say and there's a lot of things beyond my control - but given the potential with Lorenzo and probably Morbidelli in this new team, whether it's run by us or other people, I think it's a strong team."

Razali added: "As a fan and what I saw when Lorenzo was at Yamaha, he won his last race with Yamaha and you could see Zarco was faster on a 2016 bike. So Lorenzo had something special to really develop the Yamaha bike. 

"But the factory seats are not available so  – whether it's with us or whoever -  I don't know how he will handle being in a satellite team.

"I have not had any dealings with him. I don't know.

"But to me, another ex-world champion to help develop the bike should only be positive [for Yamaha]. They've worked with him for a long time before. The only thing is the image of him being in a satellite team. Can he handle that situation? It's more towards him."

And would a proposed Sepang satellite team be seeking to get the latest 2019-spec Yamahas?

"It's too premature to talk to Yamaha. And, say I get an entry, why am I limiting myself to Yamaha?

"Suzuki wants a satellite team as well. So I could have two manufacturers giving me a proposal..."

So what is the next step?

"I have to go back and present to Petronas what I've discovered in the last two days. Certain things are still currently being worked on and MotoGP is not my only priority, but one objective has been met with Hafizh Syahrin [getting a 2019 deal] and now I can focus on this other potential new [MotoGP team] opportunity.

"If the proposition is exciting for Petronas and they want us to do it, it's then for the championship to evaluate if Petronas coming in together with the Sepang circuit will be a good story? Will it be good for the championship?

"For us, it would be awesome. It fits in with what we are trying to do and hopefully the direction of Petronas as a global company. It's just a question of if the championship, Dorna, feel the same way. Let's see what happens..."

 

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