MotoGP’s silly season had been set to erupt and rumble on throughout 2020 but with the campaign postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic all plans have been put on hold.

While speculation around Valentino Rossi’s future call and Ducati’s factory line-up would dominate the major talking points in the rider market, a handful of up-and-coming riders were also looking to break into MotoGP following the three rookies who made the step up over the winter – including the 11th-hour promotion for Alex Marquez at Repsol Honda.

It remains to be seen if the anticipated fresh blood will still make it into the premier class by 2021, along with effectively all other key decisions to be made this season, but facing a truncated Grand Prix campaign – or even an entire cancellation as the last resort – it could push both MotoGP riders and teams to look for safer bets amid the uncertainty. That would mean a serious drop in the likelihood of new faces on the MotoGP grid next year.

Old guard staying put

With Valentino Rossi weighing up his MotoGP future, Cal Crutchlow has been open about assessing his time in the sport beyond 2020. But since the delays to the start of this season the 34-year-old sounds like he would prefer to stay put for another 12 months meaning no positions would open up inside the Honda ranks.

Rumours are also pointing towards Rossi sticking around for another year and with a place at the Petronas Yamaha squad on a factory-specification bike already on the table it gives an easy solution to his short term situation, while also closing off opportunities at Yamaha.

The two Italian manufacturers in Aprilia and Ducati potentially hold the biggest question marks, while Suzuki appear content with their young duo of Alex Rins and Joan Mir.

Ducati’s rider line-up across its full ranks (excluding Tito Rabat at Avintia) remains unconfirmed beyond this season which could produce openings for a rookie if the right situation falls into place.

But with a full roster of riders to pick from Ducati may choose to stick with its current pack or at least only shuffle its existing deck depending on how the 2020 season unfolds.

Aprilia already faces uncertainty with its rider line-up with Andrea Iannone currently serving an 18-month ban from his FIM anti-doping hearing. The team is backing Iannone’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which could see his ban overturned.

Regardless, it still creates questions over its line-up in the future, but Aprilia also has test rider and experienced hand Bradley Smith waiting in the wings as its preferred back-up option.

The KTM connection

An obvious pathway between Moto2 and MotoGP comes from the KTM team ladder, with both Qatar Moto2 race-winner Tetsuta Nagashima along with team-mate Jorge Martin the likely candidates for a place at either KTM’s MotoGP factory or satellite outfits if a spot became available.

But given two rookies already make up half of KTM’s line-up in Brad Binder and Iker Lecuona, a truncated season could lead to the Austrian brand giving them more time to adapt and prove themselves in the premier class which would effectively block any further promotions in the short-term.

Over recent seasons KTM has also suffered through chopping and changing riders, either due to injury or splits, which has stalled bike development so holding on to a stable line-up strengthens the case to retain its current quartet of riders aided by test riders Dani Pedrosa and Mika Kallio.

Riders climbing the racing ranks

Along with riders already affiliated with manufacturers or academy setups, the natural progression of a riders’ career will remain a factor, with those putting in strong performances in Moto2 waiting for their chance in the premier class.

Sky Racing Team VR46’s Luca Marini looks well set for a move up to MotoGP but his future is likely to be closely linked to his nine-time world champion and half-brother Rossi.

Consistent Moto2 performers like Lorenzo Baldassarri, Jorge Navarro and Xavi Vierge will also be knocking on MotoGP team manager’s doors offering their services for 2021.

Vierge is highly thought of at the Petronas squad and with its link to the Yamaha satellite team in MotoGP, team principal Razlan Razali is keeping a close eye on the Spaniard’s progress with a view to promoting him the future.

Regardless of the ifs and buts, ultimately any considerable movement in the rider market will be dictated by the ongoing coronavirus situation.

When, and if, racing can resume safely then riders will have opportunities to state their case for a future deal by performing on track and when it matters most. For now, speculation remains the most likely outcome in these uncertain times.

 

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