The 2021 MotoGP season will be the decisive testing ground for Jack Miller. The Australian, after three years riding the Pramac Racing Desmosedici, has signed an annual contract with Ducati. The Borgo Panigale team separated from Andrea Dovizioso after eight years, leaving the work of winning the world title unfinished. Miller will have to succeed where the man from Forlì failed…
The official Ducati team restarts from a blank sheet in 2021. Two new riders for the Bologna-based squad that opted to focus on two new recruits for the new season, drawing from the Pramac team. Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia will be Ducati's riders, and the spotlights are now focussed on the Australian. In 2021 he has earned himself a one-year contract thanks to the confidence placed in the results obtained with Pramac: three second places and six times third on the seat of a factory bike, but in a satellite team. A curriculum that was good enough for Ducati bosses to choose #43 as the new rider with whom to aim for the world title, Dovizioso's goal. But will Miller find the right harmony on the Desmosedici immediately?
Dovizioso and Miller: careers and results before joining Ducati
The answer is not so clear-cut. Just think of the results of the rider from Forlì. Before joining Ducati, Dovizioso had five years of racing in the premier class behind him: four with Honda and one with Yamaha. Despite this, his adaptation to riding the Ducati took time. The whole of 2013 brought the Forlì, as best result, a fourth place in the French Grand Prix, and he finished the season in eighth place. An overriding factor was the general situation of Ducati in those same years, in fact after Casey Stoner no other rider seemed to have understood how to adapt to the bike.
Game strength was the two-year contract, in fact in his second season in red, in 2014, he got his first podium: a third place in the Grand Prix of the Americas followed in the same year by a second place in Holland. The results guaranteed the continuation of his contract with Ducati, in order to continue working on the development of the bike until the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix, where Andrea took his first victory with Ducati. From that triumph to today is recent history, thirteen further victories followed. 2020 put an end to the relationship that had continued for eight years between Ducati and Dovizioso, without succeeding in the quest for the world title, three times world runner-up.
Differences and similarities in Jack Miller's career. The Australian has signed a contract with Ducati after six previous seasons in MotoGP: three of which in Honda and the last three in Pramac Racing. Francesco Guidotti's team, as well as having priority access as it had been for Danilo Petrucci, guaranteed Jack a ride on a Desmosedici, which at times had something less than the official bike, and at times more, when Jackass was busy as a test rider in the race. The goal, therefore, is to perform well right away, relying on a good starting point for knowledge of the Ducati package. Unlike Dovizioso, Miller has embraced the project starting from an annual contract, so he will not be able to count on a first year of adjustment. His future in the factory team will depend solely on his performance in the first part of the championship.
Dovizioso and Miller: the 2020 MotoGP season
The 2020 season decreed the future fate of the two riders. Dovizioso and Miller finished the season with three points’ difference, 135 and 132 respectively, finishing in fourth and seventh position in the final riders’ standings. After the postponement of the calendar due to COVID19, MotoGP was forced not to dispute the Qatar Grand Prix. The first GP of the year for the premier class was in Spain, at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit. On that occasion Dovizioso scored his first podium of the season, third at the finish. To get on the final step of the podium, it was essential to overtake Jack Miller, who finished outside parc fermé by a couple of tenths. There then followed two colourless races for the Italian, until the eve of the Austrian Grand Prix with the announcement of his separation from Ducati.
The first race at Spielberg was heavily influenced by the red flag, due to the crash of Zarco which terrifically involved Franco Morbidelli, the interruption leading to a second start. The restart marked the resumption of a superb race for Dovizioso, which he won on his own, but unfortunately it came when his game was over with Ducati. From this point of the calendar on, Andrea's season was a series of races finished outside the positions that count in the championship. A DNF in Catalonia, due to a crash caused by Johann Zarco on the first lap, followed by a fourth place in the next Grand Prix in France. The results of the other riders, never too consistent, allowed Dovizioso to remain at the top part of the standings for a good part of the season, eventually finishing in fourth place. A disappointing result compared to expectations.
Jack Miller's 2020 was influenced by four retirements out of fourteen Grand Prix races. In motorcycling there is little talk of luck, but in this context, Jackass certainly missed out on it. After a fourth place in Spain, just behind Andrea Dovizioso, the Andalusian Grand Prix ended with zero points for the Australian after a crash. The double round in Austria was a revelation. The two interrupted Grands Prix, in both cases with red flags, ended up with a podium for the Australian. A third and second place of great value; we have to particularly consider the Styrian Grand Prix in which Miller at the last corner was edged out by Oliveria's lucidity.
In the second part of the #43’s championship there were three zeros. In the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, bad luck prevailed: Quartararo's tear-off visor ended up in the air intake of Miller's Ducati Pramac, causing a loss of power and forcing him to retire. In the French Grand Prix he was betrayed by his own bike and forced to return to the pits due to mechanical problems. The last zero was that of the Teruel Grand Prix due to a crash caused by Brad Binder. Despite a season compromised by the loss of points, Jack finished the last two races in second position (Valencia and Portimão) ending 2020 with a positive result in seventh overall, just three points behind Dovi, thus bidding a satisfactory farewell to Pramac.