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Who Will Take Lorenzo’s Spot at Movistar Yamaha?


26-year-old Andrea Ianonne (L) and 21-year-old Maverick Viñales (R) seem to have very bright futures in MotoGP racing.

With the announcement that Jorge Lorenzo will be moving to the Factory Ducati team next year, of course, Yamaha must fill a seat on its own factory team for 2017. Who are the likely candidates?

Yamaha MotoGP Team Manager Lin Jarvis has already acknowledged he is in talks with Suzuki’s Maverick Viñales and he, along with Valentino Rossi, certainly appreciate that Viñales will not only become a race winner in MotoGP, but likely a future champion. At the same time, Suzuki has made no secret about its desire to hang on to Viñales next year, and will offer him a new contract. Understandably, Jarvis says Yamaha is looking at other options.

Also high on his list must be Ducati’s Andrea Ianonne.  Ianonne is still relatively young (although at 26, he is already five years older than Maverick Viñales), and has shown a great ability to battle at the front. Most recently, Ianonne found the podium in Austin, Texas. Ianonne is also a “corner speed” rider, like Jorge Lorenzo, and he should be a good fit for the Yamaha MotoGP bike.

Yamaha clearly has plenty of budget now that the burden of Jorge Lorenzo’s salary for next year has been removed from the team. We think they will try to sign one of the riders we just mentioned, Viñales or Ianonne (a relatively good friend of Rossi).

The interesting thing is that both Viñales and Ianonne are now riding bikes that are competitive, and still improving. Suzuki is one of two teams (along with Aprilia) that is still free to make engine changes during this season, for example. The Ducati keeps improving, as well, and it could easily have four podium positions in the first three races (absent Ianonne’s mistake at Argentina that cost a podium position for himself and his teammate).

So a move to Yamaha by Viñales or Ianonne will not provide as big a step up in machinery as it might have in years’ past. If Suzuki and Ducati make great efforts to keep these two young riders, it is conceivable they will stay with their current teams next year.  If so, where else will Yamaha look? The two young riders on the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team would be logical candidates, but Bradley Smith has already signed to ride with KTM next year. That leaves 24-year-old Pol Espargaro.

Pol Espargaro was being groomed for a factory ride at Yamaha, no doubt, but he had a very disappointing year last year. He never seemed to find a rhythm, and his poor results diminished his desirability.  This year, he seems to be getting his act together with the new Michelin tires and the new spec ECU … and he is currently fourth in the points. Already in the Yamaha family, Espargaro’s move to the factory squad would be a simple matter, it would seem.

Lin Jarvis says Yamaha will take its time picking Lorenzo’s replacement, so it could be several races, or even months, before a decision is announced. It will be interesting to watch how this plays out.

See more of MD’s great photography:



  1. mickey says:

    And the official, as of today answer is…. Pedrosa stays at Honda for 2 more years , and Maverick is going to Yamaha, and there is now an empty seat available at Suzuki. Wow, did they have us all snookered lol

    • Scott says:

      It’s a shame. I really wanted to see Pedrosa on the Yamaha. Mav should be fun to watch, though. So then, is the game of musical chairs still in play? Where the odd man out at Ducati simply goes to Suzuki? Or are we going to see some fresh meat on a factory bike? I honestly don’t think Rins, Zarco, et al, are really at that level yet. Nobody is dominating Moto2 or Moto3 these days. I’ve seen VDM’s name mentioned – by him – but dude, you haven’t even won a race yet…

  2. Waitman says:

    So, Pedro to Yamaha and Maverick stays put! If so, who goes to Repsol?

    • mickey says:

      either Crutchlow or Iannone is the word on the streets

      • Scott says:

        Crutchlow to Repsol?! Ha! Good one…

        Iannone, I could see. At least he would get podiums when he wasn’t crashing…

        • Waitman says:

          IMHO Dani has made a very smart decision. His style plus the Yamaha should produce near JL performance from the git-go, eh? Good way for him to end his career on a very successful note if this scenario plays out.

        • mickey says:

          those are the names being bandied about, Crutchlow was an up and comer doing well before he went to Ducati (his eagerness for a factory ride), then his GP life turned to pig slop.

          Ducati is mad at Iannone for the crash into Dovi costing Duc two podiums and reportedly it will be he who is going to be looking for a ride. The kids got talent, but needs to learn to simmer his aggression

  3. blissed says:

    maverick vinales or alex rins

  4. Curly says:

    GOAT 46 reputation fading? Nah, just giving it bit of a polish.

  5. Scott says:

    Who should replace Lorenzo?

    Three words: Johnny. Rock. Page.

    You heard it here first.

  6. Curly says:

    Yeah old Rossi is done. He should retire now. Wait, what’s that? Pole!

    • VLJ says:

      Second time this season he’s outqualified Lorenzo, as well. Three straight front row starts, for the first time since 2009.

      But don’t tell Hot Dog that. He hates it when the facts don’t quite fit his narrative.

      • Hot Dog says:

        LOL! I’m huffing, puffing and stomping my feet right now. So, I eat a little crow now and then. I’ll have it prepared rare, just don’t make me wear a Rossi T-shirt whilst I dine.

  7. Tim says:

    Marquez might have limited choices. Will Honda low ball him with doors rapidly closing to other competitive opportunities? Seems to me he’s lost any leverage he may have had for a nice contract from Honda. All the good rides (except Honda) will be spoken for. If Rossi really has the power with Yamaha that people seem to think, he would never allow Marquez to come into the fold there. Is Suzuki or other new kids on the block a viable option for him, until they become more competitive? I doubt it. I’d like to be in Honda’s bargaining position as they attempt to re-sign him.

    • Hot Dog says:

      Is Big Red going to lowball their star rider because all of the seats are filled by the competition? Really? His leverage just might be that he wins races, don’tcha think? As for JLo’s former seat, who’d want to subject themselves to that environment? I hope everyone avoids that position like the plague.

      • Tim says:

        They’ve low balled star riders who had leverage. Low balling is relative given the salaries these guys make. I’m sure he won’t be starving or anything. Lorenzo won at least two championships with Rossi as a teammate. Yamaha didn’t exactly treat him like the poor stepsister and put him on an inferior bike or anything.

    • Paul says:

      Yes, they will low-ball him. Yes, he wins races. But his image is tattered from the shenanigans from Sepang and Valencia. Many believe that he wasn’t completely honest about the events that transpired. Make no mistake, those incidents are THE reasons that Lorenzo is at Ducati, despite winning an uncelebrated championship.

  8. Martin says:

    I’d like to see Pol Espargaro get the call up from Tech3 Yamaha.

  9. Brian says:

    They should grab the young Aussie Jack Miller, super super talented, young, hungry, lacking experience but a garanteed future champion given the right ride. Some one needs to clip and ruffle Marc’s feathers as Rossi no longer has the pace (bless his sole), Lorenzo and Marc wont realy “put up their dukes”. Millers record last year doesnt speak words but just think back to his 2014 Moto3 season…. Come on Yamaha…Pick Jack

  10. VLJ says:

    The logical choice would be…Provologna.

    Failing that, Norm G. would be quite the coup, as he’d be more than willing to tell them exactly what to do and why they should do it, followed by a hearty (and very public) “I toldja so!” Even better, he would absolutely make Japanese Engineer heads explode every time he hit them with another, “NATCORK, son! NATCORK, über alles!”

    • Provologna says:

      “Senator, on advice of counsel, I can not confirm nor deny whether Yamaha has requested my services…”

    • Starmag says:

      A happy rider is a fast rider, and Norm would definitely be happier spending more time in Europe among those who he feels supposedly have a higher “moto IQ” than us lowly Americans.

    • Norm G. says:

      dammit guys, you’ve twisted my arm. though not one for playing second fiddle to Ross, i’ll take the job…!!!

    • TimC says:

      “NATCORK UBER ALLES” now that’s good

  11. waitman says:

    If Rossi has a vote he may relish the thought of a “friendly” teammate (Ianonne) in his “declining” (tongue-in-cheek) years. Of course that rumored “friendship” would probably be destroyed but that’s racin’!

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