The MotoGP paddock might be awash with rumours that Valentino Rossi will be back in Honda’s official factory squad in 2013, but HRC bosses publicly at least are saying that a new deal for Dani Pedrosa is close to being signed.
Rumours about a Rossi return to Repsol Honda for the first time since 2003 have been gathering momentum since reigning world champion Casey Stoner dropped a bombshell that he will retire at the end of the season in Le Mans.
Rossi is also wanted by Ducati, despite a disastrous attempt at making the Desmosedici a competitive force.
And the 33-year-old has been linked with a switch back to the Yamaha factory squad he quit at the end of 2010.
HRC has insisted that it has made no contact with Rossi about a factory RC213V ride in 2013 and the Japanese factory has also denied having an approach from the nine-times world champion.
HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto again reiterated to MCN during last weekend’s Assen round in Holland that Honda had no plans to offer Rossi a factory ride.
With the rookie being abolished for 2013, HRC is now free to sign Spanish starlet Marc Marquez.
Repsol management have spoken of their interest in partnering Rossi and Marquez in a kind of master and apprentice scenario, but Nakamoto said for Rossi to be back at Honda, he would have to move to a satellite squad.
The only option to be in a satellite squad could be with Fausto Gresini, who currently runs Alvaro Bautista. The LCR Honda squad owned by Lucio Cecchinello has an agreement in place for ’13 with German Stefan Bradl.
Although rumoured that Pedrosa might have to swallow a massive 50% pay cut to keep his factory RC213V ride, the Spaniard is negotiating the final details of a new two-year deal.
Nakamoto hopes to make an announcement either in Germany this weekend or the following week during the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello and he told MCN: “My feeling is very positive and we have already agreed many of the main points. I hope we will be able to announce his signing in Mugello unless Ducati or Yamaha make big crazy offer!"
Pedrosa has been an official HRC rider since 2006 but has only won 15 races in 105 starts and his place seemed under threat when Honda offered Jorge Lorenzo a big money to replace Casey Stoner earlier in the season.
Pedrosa told MCN: “With Honda it has been great in the past but for them and me we always want more, so we are just having some negotiations but nothing is closed. But it is a good opportunity.”
Pedrosa denied being infuriated by Honda’s apparent willingness to cut him out of its factory MotoGP team at the end of 2012.
Had Lorenzo accepted a big money two-year deal to replace Stoner, Pedrosa would have almost certainly been released.
HRC didn’t want Lorenzo and Pedrosa to be team-mates, claiming that running the two fastest riders in MotoGP out of the same garage would have been bad for competition.
Pedrosa added: “I understand for the factories it is not a good deal to have two top riders in the same team. Yamaha wants to have one and Honda one to share the competition.
"The market is open for anybody to talk to anyone and Jorge talked to Honda and this is normal. Every year it is the same so what can I do?"