Although MotoGP's traditional silly season - the point at which teams and riders decide who will be going where next year - is currently being blocked by one man (a certain Spanish rider by the name of Jorge Lorenzo), it is still time to start taking stock of the current state of the market, and marking out who will be staying and who will be going. Over the next few days MotoGPMatters.com will be running a series of articles on the state of the silly season, to help you keep track. All the official signings will be recorded on the 2010 MotoGP rider line up page, which will be updated as and when contracts are actually confirmed.
So far, that list is pretty short. Only Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and Marco Simoncelli have confirmed contracts for 2010, the rest is all up in the air. Rossi is halfway through his two-year contract with Yamaha, and is likely to extend that at the end of next season; Stoner has exercised the option he had to remain with Ducati for next year, though his disappointment with Yamaha and Honda for not offering him a factory ride at the end of 2006 has a role to play in the decision; and Simoncelli is the first victim of the rookie rule, the Italian expected to go to a factory team, but being prevented by the rule barring new entries into the class from signing directly with a factory team and forcing them to serve an apprenticeship year - and help bring some much-needed sponsorship into - a satellite team.
Though the list of confirmed riders is short, there are still plenty of things we are sure about for the 2010 MotoGP season. The first of these is the entry of the Aspar team into the paddock, taking over the Ducati left vacant by the surprise withdrawal of Sete Gibernau's Grupo Francisco Hernando squad. Aspar has dominated the lower classes, Julian Simon taking the team's 100th victory at Donington at the end of July, and has been trying to break into the MotoGP class for the past couple of years. Although no rider has yet been confirmed for the Aspar squad, what we can be sure of is that both the rider and the title sponsor will be Spanish, and possibly even Valencian. Aspar has been trying to persuade his protege Alvaro Bautista to join him in MotoGP, but Bautista is believed to be wary of the career-wrecking ability of the Ducati.
Whether he goes to Aspar or not, Alvaro Bautista is certain to be one of a number of rookies entering the class. Bautista will be joining current arch rival Marco Simoncelli in MotoGP, perpetuating the Italian-Spanish rivalry that exists at all levels of MotoGP. Hector Barbera is almost certain to join Bautista and Simoncelli, the only question being where, though his name is being touted around a number of destinations in the paddock.
To make way for the arrival of these new riders, an exodus of older names is also on the cards. At least one former World Superbike rider is certain to return to the series, and it is likely there will be more than one rider to return to the WSBK fold.
The other near certainty is the end of Kawasaki's participation in MotoGP. The factory only acceded to Dorna's request to continue in the series after coming under serious pressure (and implied legal threats) from Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta to remain, but after the promised year, Kawasaki is likely to be gone. Their withdrawal is doubly tragic, as the atmosphere in the team is exceptionally cheerful, everyone working both harder and probably better than ever, partly as a result of Marco Melandri's remarkable performance on the Hayate.
The final certainty we have about the 2010 season is that Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa will not be in the same team. Lorenzo is yet to decide between Honda and Yamaha - though highly reliable sources say that the Spaniard will be staying with the Fiat Yamaha squad - but if he switches to Honda, Dani Pedrosa will leave. Pedrosa has repeatedly denied that his decision will be based on what is best for Dani Pedrosa, not reliant on what Jorge Lorenzo does, but Lorenzo would not join Honda without a guarantee of equal treatment at the very least, and Pedrosa would not accept anything other than a guaranteed number 1 position in the team.
More of that tomorrow, though, when we move from the known knowns to the known unknowns, to use Donald Rumsfeld's awkward yet supremely useful phrase.