MotoGP must improve contract respect between teams and riders

Since Marc Marquez and Honda agreed to mutually part ways with a year left on his deal for 2024 so he can join Gresini Ducati, contracts have been the major talking point.

Aprilia has spent the last two weeks insisting that all of its riders – including Miguel Oliveira, who is favourite to replace Marquez at Honda – have ironclad contracts for 2024 and they cannot be broken.

On Thursday ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, Espargaro was asked if the Honda situation was something that interested him, to which he responded: “No, what I say is you never know in this world.

“Contracts, I’m the first one who wants to respect the contracts and in this paddock we have to improve this a lot. But you never know what can happen.

“Things change very quickly. And at the end of the day you can have the contract where both parties agree… everything can happen in this world.

“So, the only thing that I try to say is that in my long career is what I learned a lot is never say never in this world.”

Expanding on his comment about respecting contracts when pushed by, he added: “The contracts are broken on the teams’ side, never on the riders’ side.

“When it’s broken by a rider, it means both sides reach an agreement. And if both parties agree, as with Marc and Honda, for me this is nice.

“It’s good, it’s part of a relationship. Sometimes love can arrive at the end, sometimes you need more motivation.

Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing

“If both parties understand and agree I don’t see a problem. But when the teams, many times in Moto2 and Moto3, say ‘ah, he’s not improving, the injury is not healing yet, blah, blah, blah’ they’ve broken the contract.

“And it’s not nice because when the rider is winning races he’s not coming to you to ask for more money. So, it’s not fair.”

There have been several incidents in the Moto2 and Moto3 class where riders have had contracts shredded mid-season.

Last year, Romano Fenati was ousted from his Speed Up seat after just six rounds as the team was unhappy with his results.

And this year, Sean Dylan Kelly lost his American Racing Moto2 ride midway through the season following a period on the sidelines to recover from an arm pump issue.

Asked by what can be done to stop this, Espargaro replied: “I guess the International Race Teams’ Association (IRTA) protects the teams too much and not the riders. So, yeah, I think I answered your question.”

Last week, reported that the MotoGP riders are pushing onward with plans to form an association similar to Formula 1’s GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers’ Association) to be helmed by World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli.

F1 also has a contract recognition board governed by the FIA, which currently doesn’t exist in MotoGP.

Espargaro thinks something like this would be good for MotoGP, but believes the series simply has to better protect its riders with their contracts.

“Yeah, but it’s not only in Formula 1. It’s in many sports,” he added.

“But I think also if we have this association it’s good. But you don’t need to have this association. The championship needs to protect this [contracts].

“If you have a contract you need to respect it. I’ve never in my 15 years here had a team say ‘ah yeah, in the second part of the championship we will give him 25% more salary because he won six races’ and it happened many times.

“Talking about Raul [Fernandez] for example: he won 10 races in Moto2 and his salary was nothing, and he didn’t get more money in the second part of the championship. So, [we need] balance.”

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