Aprilia has officially presented both its 2021 RS-GP MotoGP machine and full rider line-up, by confirming that Lorenzo Savadori will be team-mate to Aleix Espargaro this season.

"I'm really happy and want to say thank you to Aprilia for this opportunity. I've been training hard and one of my goals for the year is to make the maximum for Fausto," said Savadori.

The online launch began with a tribute to Fausto Gresini, Aprilia's MotoGP partner since 2015, who passed away recently following a two-month battle with Covid-related complications.

"Our desire is to make him proud," said Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Rivola.

The RS-GPs shown live in Qatar ahead of tomorrow's test also had 'Fausto' (rather than 'Aprilia') written on top of their front wings.

2021 is the final year of the Aprilia-Gresini partnership, with Gresini Racing returning to satellite status with a to-be-announced manufacturer next season, when Aprilia is expected to have its own grid entries.

Savadori has been chosen over fellow factory test rider Bradley Smith, who replaced Andrea Iannone for much of last season (best finish of 13th) before standing down to allow a debut for Savadori (best of 18th) in the final three rounds.

When Iannone's doping ban was increase to four-years by the CAS, and several Moto2 stars turned down the Aprilia seat, the factory announced the 2021 ride would go to either Smith or Savadori.

A decision wasn't due to be taken until the eve of the opening race, when one rider would be named alongside Aleix Espargaro in the race team and the other would continue as test rider.

"The roles of second rider and test rider will be decided at the end of the winter test schedule," Rivola said last November.

But rumours last month suggested Aprilia had already made up its mind, wanting to offer Savadori the race seat and Smith the testing role.

Smith's management said negotiations with Aprilia were continuing, but Savadori was alongside Espargaro for a recent private test at Jerez and the Italian's race deal was duly made official at today's online launch. 

No mention was made of Smith, the team later telling Crash.net there is currently no testing agreement in place with the former Tech3 Yamaha podium finisher and factory KTM rider.

Meanwhile, 2021 will be Aprilia 'captain' Espargaro's fifth season at the team, the Spaniard looking to bounce back from the false dawn of last year's impressive pre-season form and finally prove that the RS-GP can be a podium machine.

"I am always emotional at the start of a new season. I’m about to begin my fifth with Aprilia, a team that has by now become my second family. In fact, I can't wait to get back to work with them," Espargaro said.

"The first contact with the new RS-GP was positive. The guys worked hard over the winter, but we still have a long way to go. We have a demanding and very busy championship ahead, where physical and mental fitness will need to be at top levels. I'm more prepared than ever."

Aprilia's 2020 campaign was hampered by the Covid technical freeze, which removed permission (under the Concession rules) for Aprilia and KTM to make engine modifications during the season.

Having introduced a brand new (90-degree V) engine design in January, Aprilia was especially hard hit by the ruling.

"The bike is very good. I’m happy with it and the set-up. I can stop the bike, have good corner speed and the traction is quite OK. But there is no engine at all," Espargaro said at Misano last September. "It’s the slowest engine in the grid in terms of acceleration."

Some 2020 engine performance had been lost due to reliability concerns, but Espargaro - who took a best race finish of eighth - made clear; "even if we use this engine at its maximum level it’s not enough."

Unsurprisingly, engine modifications are among the main developments for the 2021 RS-GP alongside new aerodyanmics, chassis and carbon-fibre swingarm.

"The new bike is based on the 2020 but with many substantial changes," confirmed Aprilia technical director Romano Albesiano.

"We made changes in every aspect, from the visible areas, like the new aerodynamics or the carbon swingarm, all the way to in depth changes to the chassis architecture, engine and electronics."

The engine-development Concession will also return this season, when Aprilia will be the only factory with access to MotoGP's range of technical perks - KTM's success meaning they have now joined Suzuki, Yamaha, Ducati and Honda in competing without Concessions.

The Concessions also mean that all Aprilia riders can take part in tomorrow's Qatar Shakedown Test, before the first Official MotoGP Test of 2021 gets underway at Losail on Saturday.