With the start of the 2011 MotoGP season just 72 hours away, the first test due to start on Tuesday at 10am local time, the grid is still not finalized. Of the 17 expected riders, only 15 had been confirmed at their teams as of Saturday afternoon, leaving one seat at Pramac and one seat at Gresini Honda still vacant. On Saturday evening, one of those seats was officially filled, with Frenchman Randy de Puniet being confirmed at the Pramac Ducati squad.
The move had been long expected, after Toni Elias had been signed by the LCR Honda, a deal reportedly brokered by Dorna after Elias had displayed a reluctance to return to the Pramac squad. Sightings Friday night of De Puniet and his manager having dinner with the Pramac team further fueled speculation that an announcement was imminent, the time pressure of the Tuesday tests adding to the urgency.
De Puniet's signing leaves just one question mark hanging over the 2011 MotoGP grid: that of the second seat at Gresini Honda. Current Interwetten Honda rider Hiroshi Aoyama is expected to take that ride, though there is some feeling that this may be under duress from Dorna. Gresini is reportedly unwilling to pay for the Japanese rider, and is looking to Honda and Dorna to subsidize Aoyama's place. There seems little doubt that Dorna will eventually cave in to pressure, as losing another rider from the grid, reducing it to just 16 for 2011, would not be acceptable.
From 2012, grid numbers are widely expected to rise once again, with the introduction of the CRT teams. Several teams are already showing an interest in the revised class, and at least three Moto2 chassis manufacturers (Suter, FTR and Kalex) are already working on chassis for the new class.