Jorge Lorenzo suspects that his teammate Valentino Rossi will leave Yamaha for Ducati at the end of this season, as rumors about the injured Italian's future continue to build.
Both riders are out of contract at the end of the year, and Rossi has previously said he did not believe Yamaha should continue to pair two equal number one riders in himself and Lorenzo. He floated the idea of moving to Ducati as an alternative, and recent reports have suggested that serious discussions between the two parties are well under way. Lorenzo thinks his teammate, currently sidelined with a broken leg, is now more likely to quit Yamaha than to stay.
"I see Valentino's future in red," he was quoted as saying as Gazzetta dello Sport. "I think it's likely he'll be at Ducati next year. But I would have preferred for him to stay with me at Yamaha, to race each other with the same bike."
When asked to clarify if that meant he had secured a deal to stay on at Yamaha, Lorenzo replied: "I haven't said that!"
Ducati boss Filippo Preziosi would not be drawn on how talks with Rossi were progressing, and denied that a 15 million euro deal was in place.
"I've heard many strange rumors on this issue, some of them completely wrong, for example the story about the fabulous retainer," Preziosi told Gazzetta. "I can say that the situation has changed compared to the past, that Valentino has the chance to either accept Yamaha's proposal, or to consider what we've told each other.
"Is it a forced decision? When the time comes, if it happens, we'll explain how things really went, but at the moment he surely is not evaluating the small print on the contract, just like it wouldn't be a marriage of convenience to get revenge against someone. No marriage can be successful without love, and we are not trying to satisfy his wishes at all costs.
"The deadlines to close the deals? I don't know. Let's just say I'd like to go on the summer break with ease of mind."
While Rossi has been strongly linked to Ducati, present Ducati number one Casey Stoner is widely expected to join Honda in 2011. Should either Rossi or Lorenzo depart Yamaha, factory-contracted Tech 3 rider Ben Spies is tipped to replace them in the works team.