The Petronas SRT Yamaha MotoGP team has lost another name off its list of potential 2022 riders with news that Garrett Gerloff will remain in the World Superbike championship for at least one more season after extending his deal with Yamaha until the end of 2022.
That leaves Petronas looking no closer to a solution for replacing both Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi.
Gerloff rode the last round of the MotoGP championship for the Malaysian satellite team to replace the injured Morbidelli in what was widely believed to be something of an audition.
But he has since become the second WSB rider to take his name off the Petronas list, after Toprak Razgatlioglu extended his own Yamaha WSB deal.
Gerloff, who had his best-ever WSB finish of second last time out at Donington Park, made no mention of his MotoGP prospects when announcing the new deal directly with Yamaha.
“I’m really excited to have signed this contract with Yamaha to continue with them next year,” he said in a press statement.
“I’ve had a great time in Europe over the past year and a half, and I’ve been really happy with the progress I’ve seen within myself, the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK team and the Yamaha R1.
“We’ve made serious steps forward already this season, allowing us to consistently challenge for the podium, but I know there is more to come.
“We have been so close to that first win, within touching distance at Donington Park, and with the support of Yamaha and the team, I’m confident we can do it before the season is out.”
It leaves Petronas Yamaha with an increasingly narrow range of candidates for the two vacancies it has.
Its circumstances are expected to become official in the coming weeks when both Rossi’s retirement and Morbidelli’s promotion to the factory team to replace the departing Maverick Vinales are confirmed.
When team principal Razlan Razali all but confirming both pieces of news recently, he admitting that the team’s focus was on developing young riders rather than taking on a more established name like Andrea Dovizioso.
So with Gerloff out of reach, Petronas seems set to once again focus attention on its own ranks.
“It’s important to remember that we’re still waiting to hear Valentino and Yamaha’s decision about next year,” stressed former Sepang circuit boss Razali.
“Anyway, and as is normal in this period of the year, the latest news regarding the MotoGP riders’ market has certainly opened up all possibilities!
“It’s an ongoing discussion between Yamaha, ourselves and our current MotoGP riders, and we’re not in a rush to announce anything.
“We believe that we have time and are in a position where we have the luxury to choose; everybody knows of the package that Yamaha can offer and what a young rider can potentially do as part of our team.
“We have the structure and the package to offer young riders the opportunity to achieve their dreams.”
With that in mind, it could well mean that the team’s Moto2 rider Jake Dixon has now moved forward another place up the team’s priority list for next year.
Struggling so far in 2021 after a strong end to 2020, both riding injured and battling through tensions in his corner of the garage, Dixon hasn’t shown his true form so far,
But with team belief in him high and series promoter Dorna pushing for a British rider to fill the gap left by Cal Crutchlow (who will ironically ride for the team at the next round to replace the still-recuperating Morbidelli), Dixon could be fast-tracked onto the bike.
It’s also believe by The Race’s sources in the paddock that there is renewed interest in giving former Aprilia rider Sam Lowes a second chance at the premier class, as the Brit continues something of a reinvention of himself in the Marc VDS Moto2 team after his failed 2017 season in MotoGP.
All in all it’s a strange position for a manufacturer like Yamaha to find itself in, given the M1’s historic reputation as the most rookie-friendly bike in the class.
However, it has deviated from the new norm of equipping satellite riders with factory spec machinery in recent years and insisted on fielding 2020 championship runner-up Morbidelli on two-year-old machinery this year.
That has drawn Yamaha considerable ire, and with other manufacturers like KTM and Ducati now offering far more favourable technical deals to newcomers, it could be that Yamaha is paying the price for its decisions.
That’s perhaps most evident in Moto2 frontrunner Raul Fernandez’s likely decision to stay put in the middleweight class next year rather than accept a suggested Yamaha deal.
Still under contract to KTM, it’s believed that Yamaha attempts to buy him out were rebuffed, striking a line through another name on the shortlist.