Well the MotoGP season of 2012 has only just begun and along with it the silly season too. Normally it takes half of the races to be complete before the silly season kicks in but this time around it has started much ahead thanks to the complete lack of performance of the star of MotoGP who goes by the name of Valentino Rossi. Everyone has all but written off Rossi at Ducati since the raft of changes that he is supposed to have suggested to make him and the Ducati competitive have come a cropper. The year 2012 is also unique because at the end of the year all major riders will have contracts that will have expired and already the process of getting riders to commit to fresh contracts has begun in earnest.
Honda has said that it would prefer to have its present riders on for the next two years. Pedrosa will gladly commit but Casey Stoner it seems is hedging. Stoner has time and again declared that he is not willing to compete on street legal machinery and has said that the concept of CRT dilutes the prototype racing that MotoGP is supposed to be. He has also said that he has no interest in a series that has fewer prototypes and more CRT machines. Rumours circulating in the MotoGP paddock suggest that Stoner wants only a one year contract and does not want to commit to 2014 since that maybe the year when standard spec ECUs with rev limiters and other performance inhibitors are likely to come in. Stoner is the Kimi Raikonnen of MotoGP, liking only the racing part and being completely abhorrent of any activities that his sponsors may want him to undertake. He is also a family man who has expressed time and again that he is not chasing any records and that he wants to be more at home pursuing farming and his other hobbies such as hunting with bow and arrow and fishing. Stoner is also a known fan of the V8 Super Car series that runs mainly in Australia and many expect him to ultimately become a part of that series since that will keep him in his home country for most of the time. Now the question is will Stoner quit at the end of this year or next? Honda has only said that they have placed an offer in front of Stoner and it is now upto him to decide.
In case Stoner does not sign (which we think is highly unlikely) Honda has said that it will pursue Jorge Lorenzo. Shuhei Nakamoto of the HRC has made it clear categorically that there is no question of HRC entertaining Valentino Rossi as their rider. Nakamoto has pointedly said that while Rossi left Honda he did so saying that it is the rider and not the machinery that is more important. Rossi has subsequently published this in his book, and Nakamoto has publicly thrown the gauntlet now saying that the time has come for Rossi to make his comments count and start winning on the Ducati. He however said that the usual HRC policy is to leave rider choice to their satellite teams and has said that if the satellite teams choose to have Rossi then it is a different matter. Interestingly enough both satellite teams that run Honda machinery are Italian, one being run by Fausto Gresini and the other by Lucio Cecchinello. Despite Nakamoto’s assertions one doubts if the satellite teams can defy the might of HRC and sign Rossi against Honda’s wishes. The other question is also about Rossi himself accepting a despecced satellite machine, for that would not bring him back to winning ways.
Jorge Lorenzo has already said that if the motorcycle is good enough his first choice will be the Yamaha and he also said that he would like to end his career at Yamaha, if all was right there. This is reminiscent of one Valentino Rossi who said very similar things before switching to Ducati with disastrous consequences. However, if for whatever reasons it does not work out with Yamaha for Lorenzo he is likely to go to Honda, but for next year even this is a most unlikely scenario. Lin Jarvis, the boss of Yamaha racing while not being as candid as Nakamoto, has nevertheless hinted that Valentino Rossi would not be welcome in the factory Yamaha team. But the situation at Yamaha is not as wonderful as it is at Honda. Other than Lorenzo, the other Yamaha riders at present are not going too well. This is especially true of Ben Spies whose first two races this season are imminently forgettable and the second one being embarrassing for the American rider. Andrea Dovizioso has not done anything wonderful though to his credit it must be said that he is returning from injury and is on Yamaha machinery for the first time and he was not too bad in the second race. Cal Crutchlow though seems to be coming into his own. However, it is all too early in the season to write someone off, but Valentino Rossi seems to have burnt his bridges with both manufacturers and his relationship with the third is not working. Definitely Valentino Rossi stands where no one would like to stand and it is now upto him to make himself count at Ducati, unless of course, he can somehow persuade the other Italian manufacturer Aprilia to come into MotoGP from next year on.
Meanwhile, aside from the silly season the confrontation between Dorna and the MSMA is becoming less and less hostile with both sides agreeing to see reason. The MSMA wants to introduce the single motorcycle per rider rule from next year on and bring down leasing costs drastically to keep Dorna happy. They are also happy with the idea that each factory will supply motorcycles to four riders and that the rest can be CRT machines, something that Dorna wants to boost numbers. For its side Dorna is supposed to have agreed to let the factories run their equipment without rev limiters for next season deferring the introduction of a spec ECU to 2014 at the earliest. Some clarity regarding the rules is likely to emerge by the middle of this year but one expect to see continuity rather than change being the norm. What is interesting is that no one is yet talking about introduction of different engines from different manufacturers into the Moto 2 class. It could be that keeping in view the close racing in the class, the introduction of different engines is being deferred. All in all, some interesting prospects for next year rules and riders wise and let us see which way things move. It should all unravel during the course of the year.