As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. While there is great concern over the state of the rider market and the earliness of when Silly Season commences nowadays, there are no concrete proposals to restrict it in any way, as far as I am currently aware. Despite the fictional nature of this story, the logic behind Dorna wanting to keep things as they are - increased interest in the sport during the off season - is sound. But whether the factories would either be willing or able to restrict negotiations to a set time is open to question. Policing such an agreement would be extremely difficult. This was the last of the fictional stories for 2018, we hope. for another year at least, all of the stories on the website will be as accurate as possible. Normal service has now been resumed...
There has been a trend over the past decade for rider contract negotiations to get earlier and earlier. Where once, talks about new contracts would start sometime in June, and agreements finalized and signed during August, now, initial discussions start at the Valencia Grand Prix the year before a contract is due to end, and deals are signed in the first few races, or as in the past two contract cycles, before the season has even begun.The underlying causes for this trend are numerous, but at its heart, it comes down to the glut of talent that is in MotoGP these days, both in terms of riders and in terms of bikes. The best riders have more choice of competitive machinery, and there are more talented riders for the factories to choose from. This has forced the factories into pursuing and signing up the riders they want as early as possible. As former HRC team principal Livio Suppo told ace French journalist Thomas Baujard, "In the MotoGP class, the manufacturers are the slaves of the top riders."
The MotoGP Silly Season for 2019 and 2020 rider contracts has been particularly frenzied. Maverick Viñales announced his contract extension in January at the Movistar Yamaha team launch. Talented Moto2 prospect Pecco Bagnaia was signed by Ducati to race with the Pramac team ahead of the factory Ducati team launch in January. Marc Márquez announced he was extending with Repsol Honda before the Qatar test, and Valentino Rossi made his new two-year deal with Movistar Yamaha public on the Thursday before the Qatar race.
This frenzy of negotiations has caused the factories to push for the introduction of a "transfer window", a practice common in other sports such as soccer. From the 2020 season, when the next round of rider contracts is due, negotiations will only be allowed to take place within a narrow window, with deals signed within that window and no talks allowed either before or after. That window will be in the week following the final race of the year at Valencia.