Of the big three Hot Young Things looking to enter MotoGP next year, only the fate of one of them is already settled. Marco Simoncelli has signed a deal to ride for Gresini Honda in MotoGP in 2010, while the futures of 250cc star Alvaro Bautista and World Superbike sensation Ben Spies have yet to be decided. Spies future is not entirely in his own hands, depending in part as it does on where Jorge Lorenzo decides to ride next season, leaving Alvaro Bautista as the next candidate to decide where he will be riding in 2010.
According to the Spanish media, that decision is now less than a couple of weeks away. After the British Grand Prix at Donington, Bautista told the press that he would be taking the next couple of weeks to make up his mind on where he will be riding next year. The main and most obvious candidate is the new Aspar MotoGP team due to be started next season, Jorge Martinez finally getting his wish to run teams in all three classes, with Ducati having assigned Sete Gibernau's old bike to the Aspar team for 2010.
This option has an obvious benefit and an obvious downside. The benefit is that Bautista's contract would not be with Aspar, but directly with Ducati Corse, putting the Spaniard in line to move up to the factory Ducati slot, should he prove able to ride the Ducati Desmosedici to its full potential. And therein lies the danger: So far, no one other than Casey Stoner has proven capable of doing so week in, week out.
There were rumors last year that Bautista had flatly refused to switch to the Ducati, but it seems that since then, the Spaniard has had time to reconsider the proposition. At Donington, Bautista told reporters "I always want to choose the best bike, and it seems like Stoner's riding style is very similar to mine. He rides the front end hard too. If he can ride it, why shouldn't I be able to?"
The Ducati isn't Bautista's only option, though. The most serious alternative is a seat at Suzuki, the Hamamatsu factory having chased the Spaniard hard. Just as at Ducati, there are upsides and downsides, the upside being that joining Suzuki would allow Bautista to go straight to a factory team, Suzuki having been granted an exemption from the rule which prevents factory squads from signing rookies directly. The downside, though, is that Suzuki has failed to cash in on their promise for the past few years, reportedly earning threats from Loris Capirossi that they need to up their game or he will cast around for alternatives.
Bautista has other possibilities as well - the Spaniard has been talking to Herve Poncharal about a seat at the Tech 3 team - but most of these are currently waiting on a decision from Jorge Lorenzo, who is currently holding up the rest of the MotoGP rider market. So Bautista is likely to decide between Suzuki and Ducati, and preferably do so before the next round of MotoGP at Brno.
He has made the criteria he will use to make the decision quite clear: Bautista will go where he can learn the most: "My objectives are about the sport, not the money, and what I want is to grow as a rider and continue to learn," he said. "If I go to MotoGP, I want guarantees that I can learn as much as possible so that I can get close to the front of the field."
Whether that means Ducati or Suzuki is not entirely clear. But Bautista was generous with his compliments for the Aspar team. "I'm happy for Aspar," he said. "They have the best 125 and 250 team, and now they will have a good team in MotoGP." But he would not be rushed into a decision. "The next two weeks will be a good time to think about what I should do. It's the best time to make a decision."
If Bautista decides against signing with Aspar, his projected place on the Ducati will be taken by another Spanish rider. The names of Toni Elias and Hector Barbera are currently being mentioned, with Elias also in the frame at Suzuki.