For three years now, Dani Pedrosa has been Spain's Great White Hope, and the man that they have placed their hopes on to take only the second MotoGP championship for the country which is obsessed with the sport. And for the past three years, the hope that springs in Iberian hearts has been cruelly dashed, as Pedrosa has confirmed his status as a brilliantly talented rider who finds it immensely difficult to consistently win races.
There have been very good reasons that Pedrosa's ambitions have been thwarted: 2006 was his rookie season, and expecting a title that early is too much to ask; in 2007, the Spaniard faced an incredible Casey Stoner with a severely underdeveloped Honda RC212V; then last year, Pedrosa had to face one of the greatest riders of all time as he rode one of his finest seasons of all time. All entirely understandable, and no one can underestimate the size of the task he has ahead if he is to take the title in 2009.
But it appears that it is not just the Spanish MotoGP fans who are growing tired of waiting. More worryingly, Pedrosa's employer is starting to lose patience with the Spaniard as well. There had been paddock rumors that Pedrosa's position was no longer set in granite as early as the middle of last year. And these rumors started to gain ground after HRC signed the talented Italian Andrea Dovizioso as Pedrosa's team mate, against the express wishes of Alberto Puig.
And Pedrosa's problems seem to be growing. The incredibly well-informed Italian site GPOne.com is reporting that 2009 will be a make-or-break year for Pedrosa, and his final chance to win the championship. Both HRC and their Spanish sponsor Repsol are losing patience with Pedrosa's lack of results, wanting to see a better return on their investment in the talented Spaniard. In addition, HRC is keen to ditch Pedrosa's manager Alberto Puig, whose Machiavellian tactics are felt to be undermining Honda's authority. Repsol, meanwhile, is growing disenchanted with Pedrosa's unsmiling demeanor, which is less than helpful for sponsorship purposes.
So HRC and Repsol are looking to another Spanish prodigy to take Pedrosa's place, should he fail to take the title this season, in the shape of Alvaro Bautista. The Man From La Mancha is a lively and lovable character, with a proven record of winning. Bautista would be a huge boon to Repsol, and comes free of the baggage associated with a Svengali-like manager.
So far, this is all just rumor and speculation. But with GPOne.com citing "sources in Spain" for their story, and a general background rumbling of discontent with Pedrosa, there could be quite a lot of substance to this story. As incredible as it may seem for HRC to drop the man likely to be top Honda rider this year and certain to take 3rd in the championship at the very least, it is still very firmly within the realms of the possible.