Marco Simoncelli is close to extending his MotoGP contract with Honda, with the Italian rider saying negotiations with HRC are ongoing and now on to technical details.
There has been much speculation over HRC's 2012 lineup after the devastating effects of the tsunami that struck Japan in March put the team under pressure to make drastic cuts – said to be 30 percent – to its racing budget. The Japanese manufacturer is likely to have only two works bikes, for Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, which has raised the prospect of either Simoncelli or current works rider Andrea Dovizioso being dropped for 2012.
Simoncelli is reportedly close to agreeing to an extension with HRC, with Italy's Gazzetta reporting that an offer is on the table – although it could force Simoncelli to abandon the crew that has followed him since his 250cc title season, something the Italian does not feel is right.
"Negotiations are ongoing," Simoncelli told Gazzetta. "We are discussing technical details.
"I'm open to reinforcements, but changing the crew completely is not right. After two years where we've improved together, it would be strange to break it all apart when it's time to reap the fruits.
"We'll see in Indy and I hope to be as optimistic as I feel now. I'd like to go back home with a clearer situation, because it would be important to have a decision, even if it's not the proper contract yet, by Misano."
Livio Suppo, the former Ducati head who switched to Honda for 2010, confirmed that HRC had asked Simoncelli to switch crews but said he was open to negotiation on the issue.
"[HRC vice president Shuhei] Nakamoto would like to strengthen the technical side in order to give Marco maximum support because, even if the team has improved, he still sees something lacking. We understand the importance the rider gives to his current crew though so at Indy, during negotiations, we may backtrack on this point."
If an agreement is reached, Simoncelli would stay with the satellite Gresini team, for whom he scored his first podium in MotoGP in the last round at Brno. Fausto Gresini says that retaining Simoncelli, and having two bikes to run, are crucial if the relationship with Honda is to be maintained.
"This time is really delicate and I hope everything gets sorted by Indianapolis already. That's because for me it's important to continue the long relationship I have with Honda, but it's vital to carry on with Marco. Being able to field two bikes is fundamental, even if one of them has the engine derived from road production. It's a bit of a troubling matter for the Japanese."
Gazzetta reports that, as a result of the Simoncelli developments, Dovizioso is not expected to be retained.