Cal Crutchlow’s frustration with Yamaha’s long-running pursuit of Spanish Moto2 rider Pol Espargaro could see him quit the satellite Monster-backed Tech 3 squad at the end of 2013.
The British rider is adamant that his number one option for 2014 is to remain in the French-based Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad but on a contract direct with Yamaha in Japan.
That is a deal that appears to be on the table for Espargaro, which unsurprisingly has angered former World Supersport champion Crutchlow, who feels his performances in 2012 and the early part of 2013 warrant a similar lucrative future deal.
Crutchlow scored his best ever MotoGP result with second place in a rain-hit French Grand Prix at Le Mans earlier this month and he has expressed a strong desire to stay onboard a YZR-M1 after climbing to fourth in the current world championship standings.
It is no secret that Yamaha has been chasing Espargaro’s signature for months, and with Bradley Smith on a two-year deal with Herve Poncharal's team, there are likely to be some delicate negotiations to come in the next few weeks if the Japanese factory is reluctant to see Crutchlow sign for Ducati or Suzuki.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Italian round in Mugello, Crutchlow said: “They (Yamaha) have signed Pol as far as I am aware and it is none of my business and I don’t really care but one thing is for sure that I won’t be riding under Pol in my team. So I will be leaving, that’s clear.
"Even if the option is given for me to ride there I won’t ride there if he has a factory contract and I don’t. My clear situation is I want to be in Yamaha and I want to ride for the same team but if there is a factory contract being given out then I think I deserve it before him (Espargaro).
"The best person to ask about the whole situation is Lin (Jarvis – Yamaha boss). It is all in Lin’s hands. The Japanese follow what he says and why he wants to sign Pol is his own choice.
"At the moment I am not too worried. I am still determined and motivated but I won’t ride for Yamaha under Pol. My clear interest is to stay where I am with a better contract than I have now.
"I did get offered a two-year deal as Herve said to avoid being in this situation but I would be in a worse situation because he hasn’t signed a contract with a manufacturer. How am I to know he is going to say we have nothing so we are not going to go racing?
"Or he says I have to ride a CRT or something like that. I am not too worried and mine and Herve's relationship is stronger than ever but there are some other things out there taking my fancy.
"I want to be racing in this championship but where I don’t know. I’ve a big interest to be here and this is what I want to do but I am not going to be treated like a fool and I think that is only right. I am not worried about the package because I know what I have is good.”
Asked by MCN if he felt that Yamaha is treating him like a fool by offering Espargaro a deal on better terms, he said: “Of course they are because what else can I do to warrant something considering what I am doing at the moment?
"In all honesty what has Pol done? He beat Marc (Marquez) last year on a bike that was twice as good as Marc’s. Marc’s was a pile compared to that. I’ve nothing against Pol. He is a great rider and in some years he will be at the front in MotoGP but it is not my problem.
"If Yamaha sign him then I can’t do anything about it and if they see something in him that they want that’s their choice. I’m not best pleased but I can’t do anything about it. I haven’t done anything wrong but the best person to ask is Lin. I can be in this is a championship in a good spot but I don’t know where at the moment.”
In a recent exclusive interview with MCN, Jarvis said Yamaha has not hidden the fact that it is keen on signing Espargaro, but he is adamant that Crutchlow remains on a YZR-M1 in 2014.
He told MCN: “For sure Yamaha has an interest in Pol. Last year there were two outstanding riders in Moto2 and Pol was one of them. I would not want to see Cal leave.
"We need a strong pool of fast riders and Cal is definitely one of those. We like his character as well. Sometimes he is a bit outspoken but that is part of his charm and appeal as well and I wouldn’t want to see Cal leave the project.
"I understand from Herve that Cal has expressed a strong interest in wanting to stay but we are not going to put three full factory spec bikes on the grid and this is something that will not change for next year.”
Negotiations surrounding the Tech 3 squad could get complicated if Yamaha is determined to sign Espargaro and retain Crutchlow.
With Smith, who scored his best MotoGP result with a battling ride to ninth in Le Mans, already under contract for 2014, Jarvis added: “It is too early to talk about at the moment.
"These are the internal affairs that will need to be talked about behind closed doors with Tech 3, Yamaha and current riders. What the Tech 3 line-up will be next year will be decided at a later stage and that’s a matter between Herve, his current riders and also Yamaha.”
Tech 3 boss Poncharal has also told MCN that he would be ecstatic to see Crutchlow sign an extended deal.
He added: “Everybody knows there is some common interest between Espargaro and Yamaha. Certainly they have been talking but I don’t know at what stage the negotiations are at as this is a matter for Yamaha. But Cal is doing an incredible job.
"I wasn’t sure what he could do this year because from 2011 and 2012 he made a huge step. But he has made another brilliant step. He is the only one who can mix it up with the top four and he is doing a fantastic job.
"I’d love to have the chance to keep Cal with us because he brings a lot to the team. I believe there will be some possibility and I’d like to keep him and I think we will have the chance to keep him.
"I’m most concerned about whether Cal will really want to stay and I am sure he will try and investigate other options. We know Ducati could have a free seat and we know Suzuki might come.”