Conflicting reports are emerging from Italy about the future of Nicky Hayden in MotoGP. On the one hand, we have MotoGrandPrix.it, who are reporting that Hayden is close to signing a new 2-year contract with Repsol Honda. According to Alessio Piana, HRC is determined to avoid the fiascos of the last two years, during which both Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa didn't sign their new contracts with Honda until the very last minute, leaving HRC with few other alternatives should the negotiations with the riders fail. As a consquence Honda wants to sign contracts early, and keep control of the situation in its own hands. In this view, Honda would want to close the negotiations with Hayden as early as possible, and try and keep the last man to win them a world title a Honda man for life.
The authoritative site GPOne.com sees it differently. Alberto Cani is claiming that the most likely scenario is that Hayden will make way for either Andrea Dovizioso or Marco Melandri. Dovi has made a huge impact on the Team Scot satellite Honda, and has a clause in his contract allowing him to leave the team at the end of the year if he gets the call from HRC. But another option could well be Marco Melandri, who, on the strength of his performance at Ducati during the first few races, is unlikely to want to exercise the option he has to stay with Ducati for 2009. Melandri's first port of call would be Repsol Honda, the Italian already having proved his mettle aboard the Honda. But Gresini Honda could be another option for Macio, as he is still on good terms wtih Fausto Gresini.
By this theory, Hayden could then take Melandri's place on the vacant Ducati seat. Ducati are known to be very keen on the American, and the theory runs that Hayden's background in dirt track could help the Kentucky Kid tame the Ducati where Italian riders have failed. Casey Stoner came originally from a dirt track background, and is known to use a lot of back brake to keep the bike stable through corners. Alex Hofmann, who saw Stoner's data during his year riding at the D'Antin Ducati team, was astonished at just how much rear brake Stoner uses, sometimes generating huge forces through the pedal.
Naturally, all this is only speculation so far, perhaps prompted by the fact that there is a three week gap to fill until the next race in China. But picking over the speculation could yet reveal a few grains of truth. As yet, it's too early to tell.