Haslam keen to stay at Honda WSBK team after Bautista's exit
Leon Haslam has expressed his desire to remain at Honda’s factory World Superbike squad next year, saying he has proved his worth against Ducati-bound teammate Alvaro Bautista.
Haslam joined the Japanese marque last year upon its return to WSBK as a full-factory marque, ending the season level on points with Bautista and securing a best finish of fourth at Aragon.
However, he has been outshone by his Spanish teammate in 2021 so far, scoring just 78 points to Bautista’s 115 after the opening eight rounds.
The 38-year-old’s contract with Honda expires at the end of the 2021 season and he had been strongly linked to a return to the British Superbike Championship, where he won the 2018 title.
But, speaking last weekend at Magny-Cours, Haslam insisted he would like to extend his stint with Honda to a third season in 2022 and is confident that he has done enough to earn a new contract.
"I want to stay, I believe in this project and in HRC," he said. "It's been a hard two years and we've put in a lot of work.
“For me the reference was Alvaro, who won 16 races [in 2019], and the reason Ducati is getting him back is no one has achieved the same results as him.
“We finished on the same points last year, I've been faster than him in every single test and I've had the best result for Honda this year [fourth place in the Donington Park Superpole race].
“I feel confident with what I'm doing, my experience of developing a bike, my experience at Suzuka [in the 8 Hours], and the results we achieved this year are not what we want, but it's where we are. On my side I'm happy and confident, we will see what happens."
Alvaro Bautista, Team HRC, Leon Haslam, Team HRC
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Bautista will leave Honda at the end of the year to return to Ducati, with which he embarked on a remarkable run of 11 victories at the start of the 2019 season before his title challenge unravelled in the second half of the year.
The 36-year-old has put his support behind current teammate Haslam, saying Honda should retain the British rider for another year instead of starting the 2022 season with an all-new line-up.
“It's good to keep Leon in the team because he knows the bike and he knows the development of Honda,” said Bautista.
“If you change both riders then it's like starting again. For me, if you can keep a rider who knows very well the bike and the experience that Leon has, it's only positive for the team. But I'm not the boss who decides the team.”
Haslam would prefer newcomer as teammate
With Kawasaki, Ducati, BMW and Yamaha having all announced their riders for 2022, Honda is the only factory team still to firm up its line-up, leaving at least one seat to be filled even if Haslam is retained for another year.
Tom Sykes is a free agent after being cast aside by BMW's works team to make way for Scott Redding, while 32-time race winner and current GoEleven Ducati rider Chaz Davies is also in the mix.
However, Paddock speculation has likewise linked WSBK newcomers like KTM MotoGP outcast Iker Lecuona and current World Supersport points leader Dominique Aegerter to Honda.
Asked for his preference regarding his potential teammate for 2022, Haslam said he would personally prefer to race alongside a relative newcomer to WSBK to ensure they both follow the same direction when it comes to the development of the Fireblade.
"The difference [between a young teammate and an experienced teammate] is if you have two riders with two different opinions, it's sometimes difficult when you are in a developing project," he said.
"If you have a young rider with no experience, it's good for me because maybe he's fast and young and naive, so maybe he can be good for the performance but we can be in the same direction for developing.
"If we go with a rider with a different idea, sometimes it's positive because his idea may be better and sometimes it's not. So honestly it's a difficult situation and I'm glad it's not my decision and somebody else's."
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