Aleix Espargaro says Andrea Iannone’s visit to the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was “very good news for Aprilia” and encountered a “different” MotoGP race winner.
Iannone is currently serving an 18-month doping ban after testing positive for a steroid during last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Italian is currently awaiting a hearing with the Court of Arbitration for Sport set for 15 October as he bids to have his ban overturned – though the World Anti-Doping Agency is calling for it to be extended to the full four years.
Iannone was deemed to have accidentally ingested the steroid through contaminated food, and both he and Aprilia believe he should be acquitted based on past precedent from similar cases.
His visit to Misano was his first time in the MotoGP paddock since February’s Qatar test, when he courted controversy by claiming his inputs had been pivotal in developing the 2020 RS-GP – something which angered Espargaro at the time.
Espargaro says it was “great to see him again”, and revealed he offered assistance during one of the sessions.
“I found a very different Andrea in Misano, it was great to see him again,” Espargaro said.
“Obviously he was not racing this year, so he was more relaxed, very open.
“He helped me during one session, he was at my side in the garage speaking with the engineers. He was also on track [watching], so was a strange situation.
“But it was great because I know Andrea is not enjoying these last months, he’s struggling a lot.
“So, to be able to chat with him and see him close to his team and his bike was good news for Aprilia, and I hope that he can have a good result after October and he can be back.”
Aprilia is publicly sticking by Iannone and is awaiting on the results of the CAS hearing before advancing its plans to fill its second seat for 2021.
Should he return to action in the closing rounds or next season, Espargaro expects Iannone to still be “explosively fast”, but perhaps more “relaxed” off the bike after his experiences this year.
“Normally the life tests you many time, and obviously this last year for Andrea has been very difficult,” he added.
“I cannot imagine his situation.
“This is why many, many times I’ve said how important it is to have a good family behind you, and when life tests you like this it’s normal that you change somehow.
“I think Andrea will be the same explosively fast rider as always, but maybe a little bit more relaxed.
“Let’s see what happens in October. I hope for him he will have good news and we will see.”