Stefan Bradl's period of enforced unemployment will be mercifully brief. Today, the Forward Racing team announced they had released him from his contract at his request, as the problems facing the team continue. Free from his contract, Bradl looks set to sign for the Gresini Aprilia squad for the rest of the season, replacing Marco Melandri.
Bradl has been caught up in a whirlwind of events since breaking his scaphoid at Assen. Two weeks later, at the Sachsenring, the German was in talks with the Forward Racing team to extend his contract to race the Open class Yamaha for the 2016 season. The day after the race in Germany, team owner Giovanni Cuzari was arrested on his return home to Ticino, Switzerland, on charges of corruption, money laundering and tax evasion. Because of the charges, the Swiss authorities seized the team's computers and financial administration, and froze their bank accounts. The arrest also prompted a number of sponsors to end their contracts, further endangering the future of the team. The team announced that they would not be competing at Indianapolis, and that they could also end up missing Brno.
All this uncertainty prompted Stefan Bradl to press for termination of his contract. The German was keen to find a new seat as quickly as possible, and secure his future in the series. With Aprilia still without a permanent replacement for Marco Melandri, who left the Gresini Aprilia squad after a miserable first eight races, Bradl is in a prime position to step into the the team. Rumors of a move by Bradl to Aprilia have been rumbling almost since the news that Forward were in problems, and have grown in strength in recent days. It now seems certain that Bradl will be stepping onto the Aprilia alongside Alvaro Bautista from Indianapolis onwards. That seat has temporarily been filled by current Aprilia test rider Michael Laverty.
Taking over the second seat at Aprilia also puts Bradl in the best possible position to secure the spot for 2016. Aprilia are known to be looking for a rider to help develop and race their brand new RS-GP due to make its debut next year. There have been rumors linking many names to that seat for 2016, including people such as Sam Lowes, but nothing concrete has so far emerged. Having Bradl on the Aprilia for 2015 puts him in the hot seat for next year.
Though the departure of Bradl will ease the financial burden on the Forward Racing team, it will also make things a little more difficult for them. Bradl was the team's big name rider who was appealing to sponsors. With temporary team boss Marco Curioni involved in searching for sponsors to help fund the remainder of the year, the departure of one of his biggest selling points is a blow. Just how big a blow remains to be seen.
So far, only Stefan Bradl has been released by the team, while Loris Baz remains under contract for the MotoGP squad, and Simone Corsi and Lorenzo Baldassari are still officially riders for the Moto2 team. Both Corsi and Baldassarri have been looking for options outside the team, but so far, the team has not released them from their contract. Corsi has had contact with the Italtrans squad, who could add the Italian to their current line up of Mika Kallio and Franco Morbidelli. As part of the VR46 riders academy, Baldassarri could be found a Moto2 ride under their umbrella. Nothing concrete has been settled for the two Italian riders yet, though.
Below is the press release from Forward Racing on Bradl:
Agreement reached between Forward Racing and Stefan Bradl
Forward Racing and Stefan Bradl have reached an agreement by mutual consent to terminate the contractual obligations between the German rider and the Swiss team.
This difficult decision – the result of an agreement between the parties - has been taken in front of the concrete possibility for the rider to continue his participation in the World Championship and to ensure and protect his sport activity and his interests.
Forward Racing agreed to free him from the next race scheduled on August 9 and wishes Stefan all the best in his future endeavors.