As rumoured, Alex Rins has signed a new contract with the factory Suzuki MotoGP team for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

The deal has been expected since Rins scored a debut podium at round two of the season, in Argentina. The young Spanish star, a title contender in both Moto3 and Moto2, suffered a spate of injuries during his rookie MotoGP season before seizing fourth place in last year's Valencia finale.

That matched the best finish of experienced team-mate Andrea Iannone and Rins continued his ascendency during winter testing, as Suzuki worked to correct engine-character issues with the 2017 GSX-RR.

The result has been a career best sixth on the grid for the Qatar season-opener, where he fell in the race, before delivering fifth on the grid in Argentina and a close third place in the race behind Cal Crutchlow and Johann Zarco.

It marked Suzuki's first rostrum since Maverick Vinales' departure at the end of 2016 and rumours soon emerged that the factory had reacted swiftly to secure Rins for the 2019 season.

On MotoGP’s return to Europe, Rins qualified strongly again with sixth place at his home round Jerez before crashing out early on.

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Rins is naturally thrilled with the new Suzuki deal and having come through his frustrating rookie MotoGP campaign plagued by injury he is relishing the opportunity to build on a solid start to 2018.

“I’m very happy about this contract renewal,” Rins said. “Even when I was still in Moto2, and I was planning to move to MotoGP, it was always the Suzuki project which looked brightest and most interesting in my eyes.

“My debut last year was complicated; there was my back injury in the 2016 Valencia test, then the ankle injury while training, and finally the arm injury in Austin. So after only two races we had already been through a very tough time, but I always felt the affection and support of Suzuki and the whole team.

“We were able to turn the situation around through being patient, working hard, and being consistent, and finally this year we got the first podium together with my third place in Argentina. But no matter the results, whether good or bad, the mood in the box has always been positive.

“The project that the team have set up for me is fantastic, I can fully trust the capabilities of the Company and the team when it comes to development and improvement, and I’m sure we can continue to aim for big results. Now we only have to keep on working hard to see just how far we can go.”

Suzuki team manager Davide Brivio has echoed his rider’s comments building for the rest of the 2018 season and heading into the next two campaigns.

“I’m very happy that we have been able to finalise the renewal of Alex’s contract for the 2019 and 2020 MotoGP seasons,” Brivio said. “Alex is growing and improving fast, and knowing that we will have a long time together allows everybody to concentrate and work even harder to achieve important results with him.

“I’m glad that Alex was happy to stay with us, and I want to thank Alex’s crew and everyone in the Team, as well as all the staff in Japan for creating a nice environment where he feels he can continue to work well and grow. Now let’s carry on doing a great job with this exciting project together."

While Rins had been expected to re-sign, with rumours circulating at his home race, Iannone's future is less clear - despite claiming his first Suzuki podium in Austin before following it up with another rostrum in Jerez.

The Ducati race winner has faced questions from the likes of Suzuki legend Kevin Schwantz over his motivation and ability to lead the team through difficult times, while Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa have been mentioned in connection with the seat.