MotoGP: Are Ducati looking at Francesco Bagnaia as Dovizioso’s replacement?
The 2021 MotoGP silly season is in full swing and has been since January.
It’s crazy to think that before we had even seen MotoGP bikes turn a wheel in anger, contracts were already signed for 2021 and 2022.
Yamaha kicked off proceedings by announcing that Valentino Rossi would no longer have a ride in the Factory Yamaha team, instead, being replaced by Championship leader, Fabio Quartararo. Viñales also signed his contract, committing to a further two years with the Iwata squad. However, despite Yamaha, KTM, Honda and Suzuki confirming their plans for the upcoming season, Ducati is still yet to confirm three of their four riders.
In May, Ducati announced Jack Miller as Danilo Petrucci’s replacement, who had found himself axed from the Ducati squad for 2021. Petrucci finished sixth in the 2019 Championship, picking up just three podiums and a single race win at his home Grand Prix in Tuscany.
With Miller set to ride the full-factory Bologna bullet in 2021, attention turned to the other side of the garage, would Andrea Dovizioso re-sign with the Italian manufacturer?
Andrea Dovizioso has finished second in the MotoGP Championship and has claimed 13 victories at Ducati. So why would they drop the Italian?
Paddock speculation began as we approached the start of the 2020 season when rumours picked up that Andrea Dovizioso and Ducati couldn’t come to a financial agreement. It is no secret that Dovizioso and Ducati leaders Claudio Domenicali, Davide Tardozzi and Luigi Dall’Igna don’t see eye to eye, but does this affect the contract negotiations?
Ducati has been public with their progress on negotiations with Dovizioso, claiming that Dovizioso wasn’t happy with the financial side of his contract. The speculation then got people talking about a possible shock switch to KTM or even Aprilia, to partner Aleix Espargaro. As we now know, there is no space at KTM, so Aprilia lies Dovi’s only option should he not re-sign with Ducati.
However, after the opening two races in Jerez, is Ducati potentially waiting for Francesco Bagnaia to show his worth? The Italian had a tricky 2019 campaign, finishing 15th overall, with a best finish of P4 in Australia.
Pecco returned to the MotoGP paddock ‘a new rider’, featuring at the top of the timesheets most sessions. Bagnaia finished the opening Grand Prix of the year in P7, seven seconds behind Andrea Dovizioso, but six seconds ahead of Petrucci.
In the second visit to Spain, Bagnaia put in an impressive performance, fighting at the front of the field throughout the 25-lap race. Unfortunately, just laps after the Italian had secured second position ahead of both Factory Monster Energy Yamahas, Francesco Bagnaia’s GP19 Pramac Racing Ducati’s engine let go, resulting in retirement for the Turin rider.
Although Bagnaia didn’t secure any points in the #AndaluciaGP, could that performance from the 23-year-old secure him a spot in the Factory team? It certainly wouldn’t surprise us.
For months Ducati has claimed they need a rider to ‘give it to Marquez’. Someone who has ‘the fight inside them’ to snap straight back and disrupt the rider’s rhythm.
Francesco Bagnaia knows how to fight. He’s a former Moto2 Champion and Moto3 race winner and is part of the VR46 Academy, learning from the greatest man at ‘snapping straight back’, Valentino Rossi. So, should Ducati take the punt on the young Italian?
With both Pramac riders potentially moving into the Factory team, could Andrea Dovizioso take a step back into the Pramac team? It is a possibility. Ahead of the 2020 season, reports circulated that Jorge Martin had signed for the satellite Ducati team. Although there’s no confirmation on this signing, don’t count it out. Ducati has been watching the 2018 Moto3 champion since his Mahindra days, and now he is showing his speed in Moto2, a move to the premier class could be on the cards.
However, there are more names on Ducati’s radar. Ducati would be interested in re-signing Andrea Iannone, bringing him home. The Maniac is currently awaiting confirmation on his ban, which could see him at worse, banned until 2024 or 2025. However, if Iannone can return to the MotoGP grid, returning to a manufacturer he has previously had success with would be a good idea.
Another name linked with the Bologna bullets is Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo rode for the Italian team between 2017 and 2018, picking up three race victories. Sadly for Lorenzo, just as the stars were starting to align for the Mallorcan, his Ducati career ended sourly when he suffered two huge crashes at Aragon and Thailand.
Johann Zarco has also joined Ducati. After a tough year with KTM, Zarco was given a lifeline with the Avintia Ducati team. The double Moto2 champion has publicly said that he is on the grid in 2020 to take Andrea Dovizioso’s factory Ducati seat, but Zarco will have to prove he can run at the front and take the fight to the leading riders before Domenicali, Tardozzi and Dall’Igna think about promoting the Frenchman.
So, who will complete the Factory Ducati line-up? I think we’ll find out over the coming weeks.