Pol Espargaro says that KTM has taken a 'big step forward' over the winter, but is tipping Suzuki to be the biggest surprise of the delayed 2020 MotoGP season.

Speaking to SkySport.it from his home in Andorra, Espargaro said: "It is a shame because we have improved so much, we have taken a big step forward. I was sure that when we raced in Europe, we would have been really strong."

The most obvious of the winter KTM developments is the switch from round steel tubes to an oval beam-style steel frame.

"The engineers have worked a lot, especially on aerodynamics because we were a little behind, the engine is more powerful, the electronics have improved as has the new chassis. We have a good package," he added.

Nonetheless, the Spaniard predicts that the Suzuki team of Alex Rins and Joan Mir could cause the biggest surprise this year, based on their winter form.

"In my opinion the revelation will be Suzuki, which has never looked so competitive," Espargaro explained. "They were strong in all conditions, the bike works well, especially when there is less grip. During the evenings in Qatar, when the humidity rose, they were very strong. Rins always kept a great pace."

Espargaro has been KTM's top MotoGP rider ever since its full-time debut in 2017, rising from 17th to 14th and then 11th in the world championship standings. He has also claimed the factory's only podium to date, at the wet Valencia 2018 finale, and best dry result of sixth place, at Le Mans last season.

But like most of the MotoGP grid, he is out of contract at the end of this year and the ongoing coronavirus delay means his future is unlikely to be settled for a while.

"It is a complicated situation for those like me who do not have a contract for next year. We will have to wait for the contract. I am happy to stay in KTM, but this year we have to make good results to understand if my place is here or in another team.

"I am 28 years old and it is a crucial moment for my career, because young people like Quartararo are coming up quickly."

Espargaro also gave his opinion on Johann Zarco's brief tenure as his factory KTM team-mate.

The French star was signed to replace Bradley Smith at the start of last season, but became frustrated with the RC16 and asked to be released from the second year of his contract.

KTM later replaced Zarco with test rider Mika Kallio for the final six rounds, before shifting rookie Brad Binder alongside Espargaro for 2020.

"In my opinion, Zarco had set himself expectations that were too high with KTM. Probably, seeing the results that Smith and I did, he thought he was much stronger than us and could do far better," Espargaro said.

"When he arrived, he realised that I was not doing badly and he clashed with reality, he got nervous and wanted to leave to find another opportunity to save his career.

"In my opinion it takes patience, you can't think of making a result in the second race, look at Lorenzo in Ducati... Zarco was pushing from free practice, he was going strong, but just one mistake was enough to put him in crisis.

"In the end, KTM and Zarco found an agreement that was convenient for both, so it was better like this."

After three races at LCR Honda late last season, Zarco will return to action with Avintia Ducati for 2020.