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Analysis

The MotoGP candidates who could replace retiring Aleix Espargaro

Aleix Espargaro’s announcement that he will retire at the end of the 2024 season has opened up a coveted spot on the MotoGP grid at Aprilia. Motorsport.com looks at the impending free agents who could replace him.

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team with riders

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Thanks to Espargaro's efforts since 2017, the RS-GP has become one of the grid's best packages, with the Spaniard having won three times on it since 2022 and Maverick Vinales taking victory at the Americas Grand Prix in April.

Both Espargaro and Vinales are on expiring deals, though it wasn't inconceivable to see both signing new contracts beyond 2024.

A darling of Aprilia management, Vinales is more than likely to stay put at the Italian marque given the success he is now finding on the bike after several years of toil.

Who replaces Espargaro is a new interesting subplot in the 2025 rider market saga that is currently dominated by the destinies of Jorge Martin and Marc Marquez within the Ducati stable.

There are a number of riders facing uncertain futures who stand as strong options for Aprilia in 2025. Motorsport.com looks at five key figures who could fit the bill.

Enea Bastianini

Bastianini has not been good enough to fend off Marquez and Martin, both of whom are keen on his factory Ducati ride

Bastianini has not been good enough to fend off Marquez and Martin, both of whom are keen on his factory Ducati ride

Photo by: Marc Fleury

The five-time grand prix winner currently occupies the factory team Ducati seat that either Jorge Martin or Marc Marquez will take over in 2025.

Despite a solid start to the 2024 campaign, with Bastianini fourth in the standings after a brace of podiums in Portugal and America, the Italian simply hasn't been good enough for Ducati to justify alienating Martin or legitimately say he is more deserving than Marquez.

Bastianini was dealt an unfortunate hand last year when he stepped up to the factory team owing to the numerous injury woes he faced, and so his market value hasn't crashed through the floor.

Though Sky Italy has reported links between Bastianini and Tech3 GasGas, the rider's manager Carlo Pernat told Motosa.es that he has been in negotiations with Aprilia.

From an optics point of view, Aprilia would gain much by having a strong Italian rider on one of its factory bikes, not to mention the competitive edge Bastianini would bring with him.

A strength of Bastianini's, according to former Gresini crew chief Alberto Giribuola, is how he is able to drive out of corners; traction is a major strength of the RS-GP, so the adaptation process may not take long.

Jorge Martin

If Martin cannot land a factory Ducati ride, Aprilia could be an appealing alternative option

If Martin cannot land a factory Ducati ride, Aprilia could be an appealing alternative option

Photo by: MotoGP

The current championship leader is an obvious inclusion on this list given the links to Aprilia he has had this year while his Ducati future remains undecided.

While Martin brings with him a talent that has carved him out as one of the top three riders in the world, as well as deep knowledge of a factory Ducati, an Aprilia move looks less likely now.

With Marc Marquez softening on his stance about potentially joining Pramac to get a factory Desmosedici (and keep his personal sponsors), Ducati could well have its cake and eat it now by giving Martin and Marquez what they both want.

Martin is currently on a decent salary on Ducati's books while in a satellite surrounding, and understandably he'll want more given he was 2023's championship runner-up.

Aprilia made contact with Fabio Quartararo's management over securing the Frenchman's signature for 2025, but the €12 million Yamaha put on the stable was €8m more than what Aprilia could do.

If a chunky factory paycheque is what Martin is after, it probably won't come from Aprilia.

Jack Miller

Could a fresh start be what Miller needs?

Could a fresh start be what Miller needs?

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Jack Miller's current contract with KTM comes to an end at the conclusion of the 2024 season.

The Australian is well-liked by KTM management, though motorsport boss Pit Beirer told Motorsport Magazin: "My wish hasn't changed. I want to continue marching with our four riders…to be honest: the current performances of Jack and Augusto [Fernandez] are a bit too little for a MotoGP place, which is so valuable."

It's also understood that Pedro Acosta, should KTM wish to hold onto the star rookie, is guaranteed a promotion to the factory squad in 2025. And it's a move that is well-earned.

KTM could well place Miller at Tech3 on a factory bike if it wants to retain him, but Miller did turn down a Ducati offer for 2023 to move back to Pramac under the same conditions to take on a works deal at KTM.

Miller's experience of factory surroundings coupled with his pace when he is at his best would make him a solid option for Aprilia, if the opportunity presented itself, and at 29 the Australian still has a lot of years left in him.

Joan Mir

Mir's Honda move has been a complete nightmare

Mir's Honda move has been a complete nightmare

Photo by: Marc Fleury

The 2020 world champion's struggles on the Honda over the last year and a half make it unlikely that the partnership can continue any longer (let alone if it will).

Honda has hit its absolute nadir in the modern MotoGP era and its slow development rate doesn't suggest its plight will be over anytime soon.

Mir would likely jump at the chance of a factory Aprilia if it was offered to him, though one has to imagine it would come at the price of taking a pay cut to do so. And given the damage being on the Honda has done to his stock, would he be seen as too much of a risk for Aprilia?

On a recent Tank Slappers podcast Oriol Puigdemont said that Mir walking away from MotoGP looks like a strong possibility than him taking a lesser contract to simply make up the numbers.

"The Aprilia is one of the best bikes on the grid right now, in terms of potential it's a very attractive bike," Mir said upon hearing the news of Espargaro's retirement. "I'm not going to say otherwise, I'm at a point where I don't know where to go. It pisses me off, to think that I'm leaving here [Honda] in this situation. It really pisses me off. On the other hand, going to a bike that is competitive, just thinking about it makes me happy. But it's clear that I still don't know where I'm going to go or anything, but Aprilia is a fantastic bike."

Aprilia would be the ideal career salvation for Mir, but it's hard to imagine him as being top of its list of Espargaro replacement candidates right now.

Miguel Oliveira

Oliveira is already contracted with Aprilia, which could assist his case

Oliveira is already contracted with Aprilia, which could assist his case

Photo by: Marc Fleury

The five-time MotoGP race winner is currently contracted directly to Aprilia at the Trackhouse Racing squad.

His first year on the bike under RNF colours in 2023 was plagued by injury, so Oliveira never had much of a platform to develop on. But there were still some solid showings, like fourth at Silverstone, fifth in Barcelona and sixth at Misano.

On the latest factory machinery as Espargaro and Vinales this year, Oliveira hasn't been as strong as hoped.

His best results at the moment are a brace of eighths as he continues to try to get the best out of the 2024 RS-GP for his riding style.

While perhaps starting the season with solid prospects of a factory team Aprilia seat for 2025, the lack of form in the early part of this season has left him in limbo: not doing enough to justify a factory team deal, but worthy of remaining where he is under his current conditions.

Who will replace Espargaro?

Who will replace Espargaro?

Photo by: MotoGP

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