Valentino Rossi has denied he is trying to influence Ducati to re-sign current factory team-mate Nicky Hayden over British rider Cal Crutchlow for next year’s MotoGP world championship.
The 33-year-old, who kicked off practice for his home race at Mugello with the ninth fastest time, denied he had said that his preference would be to partner Hayden in 2013, should he agree to remain with the Bologna factory next season.
Rossi hasn’t yet decided where his own future lies but Ducati has been negotiating with Crutchlow for a two-year contract.
Crutchlow was anticipating getting a written contract to mull over at Ducati’s home race in Mugello this weekend but that is not going to happen.
Hayden’s future remains unclear while Ducati negotiates with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Crutchlow but Rossi has an excellent relationship with the Kentucky rider.
Rossi was Hayden’s team-mate when the American first came to MotoGP at Repsol Honda in 2003 and they have been together at Ducati for the last two years.
Rossi told MCN: “No, this is not true (that he endorses Hayden). I said that I like Cal very much and I have a very good relationship with him. He is one of the funniest guys in the paddock.
"But I also very much like Nicky and I know him better because we share time together and a team for longer. He is a good guy and very fast. But I don't give real advice to Ducati. For me Crutchlow or Hayden is the same."
Rossi denied Italian media reports that he had made his mind up what and where he will be riding in 2013. "No, it's not true," he added.
But with Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa confirmed at HRC and Ben Spies appearing favourite to keep his factory Yamaha rider, Rossi was asked whether he felt his options for 2013 were vanishing fast.
Rossi had positive meetings with senior Audi executives during last weekend’s German Grand Prix.
Audi is in the process of finalising its takeover of Ducati in a deal rumoured to be worth over £700m and Rossi said: “I have to speak more with guys from Ducati and Audi about the future.
"I spoke in Germany with the Audi guys and they have lot of enthusiasm for this project. We have to speak more deeply but it can be an option for the future."
Rossi said the issue is that he would put his faith in Audi to spark a dramatic turnaround in his on-track fortunes with no assurance of success.
The nine-times world champion has only scored two podiums in 25 races for Ducati and he said staying would clearly be a big gamble.
“The problem is I have to trust that the situation will improve in the future with the help of Audi to fix the problem of the bike.
"But it is just a bet. I don't have any insurance about if we are able to fix the problem of the bike because in one and half years we have not been able to do it. It depends on a lot of things," said Rossi.