Even though he won only a single race in 2017 and may only match that again this year, the MotoGP rider market for 2019 still revolves around Valentino Rossi and his retirement decision.
If the nine-time world champion decides to stay at Yamaha for another year or two, you can bet your bog door that most if not all of the factory seats will remain as they are for 2019-2020.
Should Rossi decide to hang up his Dainese made-to-measures, then it might get a little interesting for a couple of reasons. First, Yamaha will have to replace him and, secondly, Dorna might have to make a space for The Doctor’s much-rumoured MotoGP team.
The space at Yamaha should naturally be filled by Johann Zarco but he may not be available as KTM are making a play for the talented Frenchman - more than likely to the cost of Bradley Smith. This could open two further doors.
One is for Alex Rins to move across from Suzuki and into a covteted Yamaha works spot. This makes a space at Suzuki - if there isn’t one already by the departing of Andrea Iannone - for Jonathan Rea.
Lots has been said, some of it by Rea himself, as to the difficulties surrounding a move to MotoGP. The main two are happiness and money. The Irishman is content and likes it in the WorldSBK paddock.
He is paid well (conservative estimates say about three times more than Cal Crutchlow, for example), likes racing 13 rounds a year and he loves winning on a competitive bike. If Suzuki can match at least two of these conditions, he might just make the move.
KTM boss Pit Beirer has denied he will make a play for Marc Marquez in 2019 as he believes the Spaniard is happy where he is - plus he probably can’t match the cash that a combined Honda/Repsol/Red Bull package will offer.
Dani Pedrosa will also proably stay as he is liked by HRC and is great at the second rider role - Honda don’t need two riders competing for wins week in, week out as that just gets messy as history shows.