Just a few months ago, the toing and froing between Dovizioso and Ducati seemed a bit like the usual game of two sides before arriving at the stage of ‘they all lived (almost) happy ever after’. But everything went differently and the possibility of not seeing Andrea in MotoGP next year - as a rider or even as a test rider - has become virtually a dead cert.
The Man Who Would Be King, who for three years was the championship runner-up only to be beaten by the Great Dictator Marc Marquez, might possibly be taking part in his last two MotoGP races in the coming weeks and then bid farewell to all and sundry.
After his announcement in Austria that he was leaving Ducati, Dovi's name was bandied about with virtually every bike on the grid, and for sure he had some talks with everyone. But they didn't lead to anything.
There were contacts with KTM even before he decided to say goodbye to the Big Red One, but the Italian’s requests were deemed too expensive and the Austrians preferred to look a little bit further. To Petrucci, a rider with a different but less expensive curriculum.
At that point, Dovizioso found himself in a blind alley with only one way out: the Aprilia. Not exactly a smooth and obstacle-free road, because Iannone's future is not yet known and the RS-GP, however promising it may be judged, remains at the rear of the grid. It goes without saying that they would still have to reach a satisfactory agreement from an economic point of view, but he also had to be convinced that that project was the right one. Nothing went right…
The remaining possibilities were therefore with the Japanese manufacturers, as a test rider. Suzuki replied with a ‘thanks, but no thanks, we have Guintoli', so Honda and Yamaha remained at stake. At a certain point in the last few weeks, it looked as if he was on the point of joining the Iwata manufacturer, also thanks to a good word put in by Valentino Rossi, who has a lot of esteem for Andrea. Not even that road convinced Dovizioso and (as reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport) he is reported to have said no to this offer. For its part, Honda has already reconfirmed Bradl as a tester, but Andrea has never completely convinced the European leaders of the team (we’re talking about you, Alberto Puig).
Unless there are some sensational last-minute developments – always possible – Dovi seems destined to take a year off, which could quite easily turn into a definitive retirement in this frenetic MotoGP where anyone who stops (even for just one year) is lost…
That Andrea's future was complicated could be seen in his declarations in recent months, in no particular order: 'I have a lot of offers', 'I have no offer', up to 'I have some ideas, I'll tell you soon', which he said a few days ago.
At the age of 34 Dovizioso has given and received so much from MotoGP, but thinking of not seeing him on the track again is a real shame. Considering also the fact that many riders who have demonstrated a lot less than him in his career have a seat. On the one hand, the situation generated by Covid also played against him, with the riders’ market coming to an end well in advance and, as in the old game of Musical Chairs, Dovi was left Last Man Standing...
Perhaps, however, it was also Andrea who wanted it, as he is thinking about turning his life around, away from the pressures and compromises that he was no longer able to accept. Over the years with Ducati he has gone from zero to hero, he took the Desmosedici from the back of the grid to the top, he fought with one of the greatest riders of all time until the last race. After that story, it was difficult to think about starting another one.
Regret for this absurd and unpredictable year will remain, regret for that title that he only touched upon, but so will a lot of good memories. Dovizioso has never wanted to race for too long, and has always said so. He really likes motocross, Carlo Pernat told us that he is thinking of an Academy for young guys, like Valentino's, but with treaded tyres. Maybe we will see him again there, in the midst of jumps and mud, dustier and perhaps even happier than ever.