KTM CEO Stefan Pierer is not ruling out keeping Pol Espargaro beyond the end of the 2020 MotoGP season.

Strong rumours are linking the Spaniard, KTM's top rider since its 2017 MotoGP debut, with a shock switch to Repsol Honda next season, to partner current six-time champion Marc Marquez.

While not denying that negotiations between Espargaro and Honda have taken place, both sides insist nothing has been signed.

The likely reason why only a verbal commitment would be possible at this stage is that KTM appears to have some sort of contract clause in place with Espargaro.

"From our point of view, the question of whether Pol stays with KTM is still open," Pierer told Speedweek.com. "The decision will be made on September 15 at the latest."

That's not to say KTM would try and force Espargaro to stay - the factory knows from the Johann Zarco situation that it's better to let a rider leave if they are not fully committed.

Rather, KTM will be hoping that between now and September (just before the halfway stage of the revised season) they can convince Espargaro it's in his best interests to remain at the team.

The most important factor will be improved performance from the RC16, which has a best finish of sixth so far in the dry, but the factory can also offer 'number one' status and, probably, more pay than Espargaro would get at Honda.

Nonetheless, it will be an uphill battle, with Pol's brother Aleix recently telling Spanish broadcaster RTVE: 

"KTM is pushing hard because they value him a lot and they want him to stay, but I don't know to what extent Honda is going to love or not love my brother. But, in the end, when Ferrari calls you, for example, it is very difficult to say no to Ferrari.

"We will see, I think Repsol Honda is the 'dream team' in the history of the MotoGP World Championship and if you have that option, it will not be easy to say no to them..."

A KTM clause or option is thought to be in place for Moto2 star Jorge Martin, who is understood to have 'agreed' a move to MotoGP with Pramac Ducati next season, but cannot yet officially announce the deal.

However, with three of KTM's four MotoGP riders currently having less than a season of experience, the factory already has plenty of young guns available. Therefore, even if Espargaro departs, KTM is likely to target an experienced rider rather than try to tempt Martin 'back' from Ducati.

One experienced, race-winning rider is Danilo Petrucci, out of Ducati's factory team for 2021 following the signing of Jack Miller. The Italian is now rumoured to have an appointment at the KTM factory in the upcoming days...