2021 silly season: how is the MotoGP™ grid shaping up?

motogp.com look at how the premier class teams are shaping up for next season as the rumour mill continues to turn

The 2020 MotoGP™ season may not have gone according to plan – with racing set to get underway in July – but that hasn’t stopped the 2021 line-up rumours going into overdrive. In fact, the silver lining to this season’s delay is we look set to be in for a massive shake-up for next season.

Contracts are at the tip of the MotoGP™ community’s tongue as everyone eagerly awaits more news on who will be riding where in 2021. Some teams flew out the traps early to get their line-ups done and dusted, with others yet to confirm either rider so far. Have a look below to see where we currently stand in terms of who’s riding where in 2021 – and who might potentially be riding where.

Repsol Honda Team:

Marc Marquez and TBC

Eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez will continue his incredible partnership with HRC until – at least – the end of 2024 after signing a new deal. Having not raced in MotoGP™ yet, Repsol Honda Team Manager Alberto Puig did say they are waiting to see how Alex Marquez performs before deciding on whether it will be a Marquez duo in the factory Honda set up in 2021. However, several reports have suggested a deal with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pol Espargaro is pretty much done… 

There’s no official word from any parties regarding that deal yet, but it would be a shock move that would then have a snowball effect on plenty of other premier class seats. 

Ducati Team:

Jack Miller and TBC

At the end of May, Ducati Team announced Jack Miller would be making the step up to the factory team from Pramac Racing. The news didn’t surprise many people, but now there’s plenty of speculation over Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci’s future.

It seems Dovizioso’s situation is a case of stick or twist for the Italian. If Pol Espargaro vacates KTM for HRC, then you have to believe Dovizioso is the prime candidate for the Spaniard’s seat in the Austrian factory. In regard to Petrucci, he told Sky Sport Italia that his priority is to stay in MotoGP™. The Italian suggested the current rider market is “like a chessboard, with Dovizioso moving first” – it seems the Mugello 2019 winner is waiting on his current teammate to decide his future. If Dovizioso sticks with Ducati, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini or KTM seem like the likely destinations.

In short, the remaining factory Ducati seat is probably the most intriguing one, and one that has numerous candidates waiting in the wings. 

Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP:

Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo

Yamaha didn’t mess about at the turn of the new year. Quickly after they confirmed Maverick Viñales had extended his contract, the Iwata factory announced that Fabio Quartararo would be replacing Valentino Rossi in the factory line-up for 2021 and 2022.

So the question is, where does that leave the nine-time World Champion. Well, Rossi said it himself: “It’s Petronas or stop.” The Doctor is heavily tipped to make the switch, but a deal is yet to be agreed between the parties, but we can expect to hear something before the Championship gets back underway. One thing Rossi has promised: if the move happens, 2021 won’t just be a farewell tour. 

Team Suzuki Ecstar:

Alex Rins and Joan Mir

Likewise to Viñales and Quartararo, Alex Rins and Joan Mir were linked to a move away from Suzuki at some point during the yearly contract rumours. However, both Spaniards have committed their future to the Hamamatsu factory as Suzuki grow into a formidable force. A title threat in 2020 and beyond? You bet!

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing:

No riders confirmed

Neither Pol Espargaro nor Brad Binder has been confirmed to be riding with KTM next season. As previously mentioned, Pol Espargaro has been heavily linked with a move away from the Austrian factory to Honda, with rumours also floating that Red Bull sponsored Dovizioso could be on his way to KTM. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Jorge Martin has also said he’s interested in a MotoGP™ move for 2021, but it seems the Spaniard is close to agreeing on a deal with Ducati. 

With all this in mind though, KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer has indicated that his and KTM’s priority is to keep their current line-up for 2021 – including Miguel Oliveira and Iker Lecuona at Red Bull KTM Tech 3. It will be very interesting to see how those four seats develop.

Aprilia Racing Team Gresini:

Aleix Espargaro and TBC

After troubled times, Aprilia looks to have finally turned a corner in 2020 – and that’s backed up by Aleix Espargaro agreeing to extend his contract with the Noale factory for another two years. The second Aprilia seat may well quickly become a sought-after ride, with the likes of Italian Petrucci and Cal Crutchlow being linked with a switch. 

Petronas Yamaha SRT:

No riders confirmed

With 2019 MotoGP™ Rookie of the Year Quartararo off to Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP after the 2020 season ends, is Rossi coming in for a straight swap between the Frenchman and Italian? And will Franco Morbidelli keep his seat? That’s certainly sounds on the cards as Team Principle Razlan Razali says the team have every intention of keeping the 2017 Moto2™ World Champion. A VR46 Academy duo line-up at Petronas Yamaha SRT for 2021 is a likely possibility, with the talk of a Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo rekindling their Yamaha partnership drifting off the horizon.

LCR Honda:

No riders confirmed

Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) haven’t signed contracts with LCR Honda for 2021 yet. There was some talk in 2019 that 2020 would be Crutchlow’s final year in racing, but those rumours have somewhat taken a back seat with the Briton confirming he’s as motivated as ever. If a move away from HRC takes place for the three-time Grand Prix winner, where do his potential destinations sit? Aprilia and Ducati would seemingly be the only options. 

There hasn’t been much speculation with regards to Nakagami’s future and despite the likelihood of the Japanese star staying put, the Pol Espargaro to Repsol Honda rumours have ultimately led to Alex Marquez being linked with a seat at LCR Honda in 2021. Three doesn’t go into two and if the rumours are all true then it means one of Nakagami or Crutchlow will be riding elsewhere in 2021. However, Team Manager Lucio Cecchinello has stated that he intends to renew both Crutchlow and Nakagami’s contracts – what happens next? We’re all eager to find out.  

Pramac Racing:

No riders confirmed

Aforementioned, Miller’s move to the factory Ducati Team for 2021 is a done deal. This definitely leaves at least one spot in the Pramac garage, but with Francesco Bagnaia also not signed up yet, there could be a complete overhaul at Pramac Racing. Team Manager Francesco Guidotti spoke to motogp.com to outline some potential replaces for the seemingly outgoing Miller, while stating their aim is to keep Bagnaia. 

Rumours surrounding Ducati have been ripe and with Martin looking set to put pen to paper, seemingly to ride with Pramac Racing in 2021, the other seat is still up for grabs. Will Johann Zarco move to Pramac or the factory team? Will Bagnaia follow Miller to the factory team? There’s plenty of questions that will be answered at Ducati, but expect Bagnaia to stay put. 

Red Bull KTM Tech 3:

No riders confirmed

Miguel Oliveira and Iker Lecuona are yet to be confirmed at Tech 3 for 2021, but as we previously stated, Pit Beirer is hoping to retain the duo. Has this forced Martin’s hand to look elsewhere for the premier class seat? It’s an interesting plot that’s thickening at KTM as none of their riders are confirmed yet. 

Reale Avintia Racing:

Tito Rabat and TBC

Rabat is the only rider on the grid who is ‘out the loop’. The Spaniard’s contract runs until the end of 2021 at the minute, with other riders either out of contract at the end of 2020 or have a new contract in the pocket until the end of 2022. Johann Zarco signed a one-year deal with Ducati for the 2020 campaign, but he could well be moving up the ranks. If not, the Frenchman looks set to stay with Reale Avintia Racing beyond 2020 if results go well.

As you can tell, the 2021 MotoGP™ ‘silly season’ cauldron is bubbling away nicely. We don’t know when, but it’s going to hit boiling point when the first chess piece is moved as heavy negotiations continue to take place. Who will be the next team to confirm their line-up for the new season? Keep up with all the latest silly season ongoings right here on motogp.com.

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