Both the Italian and the Spanish press are known for being quick to jump the gun, and this seems to be the case with the story in the Gazzetta dello Sport that we reported on earlier, which claimed that Marco Simoncelli had signed a contract with HRC for the next two years. This afternoon at Barcelona, both Fausto Gresini and Marco Simoncelli denied that any such contract had been signed, though both men admitted that talks had taken place.
Talking to GPOne.com, Simoncelli said, "I've only talked to Gresini, not to anyone from Japan," while Fausto Gresini told Italian television "Obviously we are interested, and we are working on that project." But Gresini denied any deal had already been done: "It would be great news if true, but it still can't be confirmed by me."
Simoncelli confirmed his intentions to move up to MotoGP next year, though, and that he had several options he could pursue. "It's true that I want to go to MotoGP, and that I will do it with Yamaha or Honda, but at the moment, I have nothing signed," he told GPOne.com.
Simoncelli also said that he had been approached by Ducati, and his response reveals the deep problems that face the Borgo Panigale factory. "I'm grateful for Ducati's interest, but I don't think it would be a good idea to race with them right now. I would like to go to Ducati with a little more experience, their bike is a very challenging one to ride, as you can see from Hayden, Gibernau, Kallio and Canepa." Simoncelli's verdict is widely shared in the paddock, and Ducati is likely to find it increasingly difficult to sign new talent until they manage to make the Desmosedici more predictable and more user-friendly, and easier for anyone other than Casey Stoner to ride.
Simoncelli's great rival, meanwhile, has opened up a new front in his MotoGP campaign by opening negotiations with the Tech 3 Yamaha squad. Previously, Suzuki had given Alvaro Bautista until the Catalunya Grand Prix to respond to their offer of a contract for 2010. Bautista's response has been to start talking to Tech 3, according to Motoworld.es. The talks were initiated by Tech 3, and the two sides met to discuss a possible deal at the Barcelona circuit on Thursday.
The approach to Bautista was precipitated by Honda's interest in Simoncelli, according to Motoworld. Simoncelli was thought to be sure to sign for Tech 3 for 2010, but after the Tech 3 team found out that Simoncelli had been talking to Fausto Gresini, they were forced to move rapidly to look for alternatives.
Bautista finds himself in a similar quandary to Simoncelli, though. The only factory team directly available is Suzuki, but the Hamamatsu factory seems incapable of finding that final 1% that would turn the bike from being top 5 to a potential winner. The Yamaha M1 has proven to be the best bike on the grid and capable of winning in anyone's hands, but the seats at the factory Fiat Yamaha team are solidly locked up for the foreseeable future. The Honda should be capable of winning, but the once-mighty HRC seems to be stuck just slightly behind the curve at the moment, and the future of the factory riders uncertain. The Ducati remains unridable for anyone other than Casey Stoner, and is not worth even considering. Any new rider looking for a chance to win a MotoGP championship is having a hard time finding a new home.