Cal Crutchlow has branded Aprilia’s treatment of its outgoing MotoGP rider Sam Lowes “a disgrace”, and believes his dismissal is a result of the manufacturer “panicking”.
Moto2 graduate Lowes has endured a difficult rookie MotoGP campaign blighted by reliability problems and a rocky relationship with the team.
Aprilia racing manager Romano Albesiano indicated before the previous race at Brno that Lowes had two more races before his future would be decided.
It then emerged in the build-up to this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix that Aprilia has activated an option to end Lowes’ two-year deal early.
“I think it is a disgrace,” said Crutchlow. “There is no other way to put it. What did they expect him to do in his first year in MotoGP? The package is not a Yamaha, is it?
“We know they've treated him like crap, we know that the bike hasn't started in most sessions, the crew chief [ex-Honda and Yamaha man Giulio Nava] is not very good.
“All they've done is demoralise him more every time.”
Crutchlow said he was friends with Lowes and had known “what’s been going on for a long time”.
“The way it's been handled has been out of order and I don't agree with it,” he said. “He deserves a shot because he is fast.
“He just doesn't understand everything at the moment, but there were [only] two or three guys in the whole world that ever jumped into MotoGP and suddenly understood it.”
Crutchlow claimed earlier in the year that Aprilia needed to give Lowes more time and said on Friday in Austria that the decision was because “this team is panicking”.
He added: “I am disappointed for him, but in a way I am also pleased for him that he's got himself out of this s***. He doesn't have to think every weekend that he has to prove himself, that he has to do this or do that.”
Redding ‘not a better’ option
Scott Redding appears set to replace Lowes alongside Aleix Espargaro, a decision which Crutchlow does not understand.
“They are putting a guy on [the Aprilia] that is absolutely not better than Sam, who has had many, many chances,” said Crutchlow. “That is my personal opinion but it's also the truth."
When told Aprilia had indicated they wanted a rider who would be “less risky” than Lowes, Crutchlow replied: “Well, the less-risky option they've gone for, how many top-10s has he finished this year, how many times was he in the points?
“I don't think Redding is a less risky option than Sam, and I think you have to give Sam time.”
Additional reporting by David Gruz