It appears there is no smoke without fire.

Aprilia boss Romano Albesiano has admitted the factory is making contingency plans for 2018 in case Sam Lowes does not "show some improvement" in the coming MotoGP races, and "is talking to some riders" about taking that seat.

Lowes is contracted to the Noale factory to race in the MotoGP class in 2017 and 2018, but recent rumours have linked several riders to his seat for next year, including Italian Andrea Iannone.

Albesiano stated the factory is fully behind 26-year old Lowes ("we have made a big investment in Sam. We are his first supporters"), but simultaneously outlined Aprilia is expecting an upturn in his fortunes.

And, to use his words, expecting that upturn to come "quite soon."

"It's very clear," Albesiano said on Monday. "We made a big investment with Sam. We are his first supporters and really hope he can quickly show some improvement. But at the same time we have to prepare next season in case this will not happen. So we are talking with some other riders because of this."

So what does Sam need to do to retain his seat in 2018? "To show improvement," came the reply. "Show the right trend. Quite soon." And has Aprilia set a date for Lowes to show this by? Albesiano said it hadn't. "No," he answered. "No clear deadline."

On Saturday Lowes had vented his frustrations at the handling of the situation. As well as feeling upset by the mechanical gremlins that ruined his qualifying session, the Englishman expressed disbelief that his team haven't taken all of his situation into consideration.

"In the paddock you hear what's going on and I understand the situation and obviously I know exactly the situation," he said after qualifying. "Honestly, for me, it's nearly unbelievable. It's nearly unbelievable, I lay in bed at night, and some of the things going on, I'm shocked and disappointed and I'm just thinking, 'fair enough'.

"And they don't understand... my results haven't been great, but as a rookie on this bike and the package I'm on all the time, being a little bit behind, they don't quite understand and that's very strange for me."

Albesiano was asked whether signing an Italian rider for his team - in other words, Suzuki's Iannone - would represent a dream. His response did little to quell the suspicion the one-time MotoGP race winner is among those being considered for '18.

"I'm thinking about the difference between a dream and a possibility," he said. for us what really matters is the performance of the riders. If he's Italian it's okay, but if he's from Singapore it's good anyway."

By Neil Morrison

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