Fernandez stepped up to Moto2 in 2021 with the Ajo KTM squad and has already won twice, making him a sought-after in the MotoGP rider market.
The Spaniard has been linked to a promotion to Tech3 KTM alongside current Moto2 team-mate Remy Gardner, while Autosport reported recently that SRT has expressed interest in Fernandez as nine-time grand prix world champion Rossi looks set to retire at the end of 2021.
The main stumbling block to this season’s revelation in Moto2 becoming Franco Morbidelli’s new team-mate is KTM, who are refusing to let go of one of their most prized assets.
KTM’s protectionism has reached unimaginable heights, something that can be confirmed by Gardner, who initially turned down a Tech3 move but was ultimately caught between a rock and a hard place.
Valentino Rossi, Petronas Yamaha SRT
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
KTM’s philosophy goes hand in hand with that of Red Bull, which has always been to offer practically invulnerable contracts to the young riders it supports and mentors.
The loss of Jorge Martin to Pramac and Pol Espargaro to Honda already confirmed that this philosophy has cracks.
In an interview with Autosport, KTM Motorsport boss Pit Beirer said Fernandez has expressed a desire to remain in Moto2 for one more season.
KTM has two possible avenues open to Fernandez ahead of 2022, the final year of his contract with KTM: either continue with his current team in Moto2 or move up to MotoGP with Tech3.
Naturally, KTM will do everything it can to keep him, even if the rider believes that his best alternative would be to ride the Petronas-branded M1.
In order to leave KTM, Fernandez must pay a penalty of around half a million euros.
That is a more than acceptable amount for the Yamaha and Petronas duo, though they do not intend to start a war with KTM.
“We will not interfere in Raul’s relationship with KTM,” said Johan Stigefelt, head of SRT, in an interview with Autosport.
“We will not interfere in Raul’s relationship with KTM.
“Of course, we like him and we are interested in him, because he is very fast.
“But if he wants to come, he will have to sort out his situation first.”
With Morbidelli spearheading SRT’s MotoGP project for 2022, the budget for the second rider’s salary is not even half of the 500,000 euros needed to extract him from his KTM contract.
The chess game between Fernandez and KTM has been going on for some time now and Petronas is waiting for the outcome.
In that sense, the Austrian company has the upper hand.
“They have two clauses in their favour, a preferential right of first refusal and a right of first refusal against any offer they might receive from outside,” someone who has seen the contracts tells Autosport.
The options he has from KTM expire on 31 July, a date by which, usually in MotoGP, all the bikes have already been awarded.
Given that scenario, it makes sense to think that Fernandez is torn between taking a gamble and looking for the least traumatic way to escape KTM’s clutches, or staying with Ajo in Moto2.
Accepting the offer to join Tech3 would likely mean signing an extension beyond 2022, at which point many more bikes will be vacant.