Nicky Hayden appears to be on the verge of signing a one-year contract to stay with the Marlboro-backed Ducati team for the 2013 MotoGP World Championship.
"My deal is not done yet, but things are looking really good... really close to staying here at Ducati for another year so I'm real happy about it and hopefully we can get it together and get it announced soon," Hayden said today from the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca paddock area.
The positive view Hayden has on the situation is a far cry from his outlook a few weeks ago.
"You know things have moved a lot - quite a bit faster since Mugello," Hayden said. "You know, even on the inside I've had a good feeling. Yeah, if you just took what was being said and the words around, yeah it seemed like it would never happen. But honestly the discussion I've had the last month... and really the dialogue and stuff. I guess it's not as big a change as maybe people thought. I've got a really good relationship with a lot of guys there. I met with all the Audi people at Mugello and had some really good talks. And I had a pretty good weekend. That didn't hurt... just as far as looking competitive and stuff."
Hayden's season seemed to take a turn for the positive in the Italian Grand Prix, the 2006 World Champion coming on strong at the end of the race to challenge for the podium until things went wrong on the final lap. After putting a pass on Stefan Bradl for fourth place, Bradl came back at him and pushed him wide. That allowed Valentino Rossi to pass. Hayden would also get passed by Cal Cruthlow on the final lap.
But it was a positive race with Hayden as fast at the end as he was at the beginning. What followed was a test a day later at Mugello and more positives coming into one of his two home GPs.
"We have a couple little electronics stuff... I don't know some of the exact names," Hayden said when asked what new bits the Ducati would have for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix. "Something on the butterflies are a bit different. For sure, we'll start with that. And then we have one other electronic setting we can possibly try again with the butterflies to help smooth connectibility and stuff. So it's not huge changes, but couple little things I tried at the test - some different suspension options we'll try this week. But not great, not huge stuff."
Although there's no wholesale changes, Hayden thinks the little things will improve the bike for Laguna.
"I mean it's mainly connectibility stuff, drive, that sort of thing," he said. "I mean it's not... traction. It's not performance as far as being faster or nothing like that. But every little bit counts, so I look forward to trying it. Some of it might make it easier for the software guys to dial it in."