“If something can go wrong, it will” states Murphy's Law and the Dovizioso-Ducati situation seems to confirm just this. With the contracts of Vinales, Valentino and Marquez having been signed in quick succession, Andrea's renewal with the men in red seemed to be only a matter of time. But weeks and then months have passed and rather than getting closer, it seems they're moving in the opposite direction.
It seemed like a classic negotiation between the parties, with Dovi understandably wanted a higher salary after his achievements last season and Ducati, on the other side, keeping one hand firmly on their purse strings. You've read the figures, Dovi is looking for 7 million but the latest offer is 5. Rather than question of money though, it has become a matter of principle, with all that that entails.
A deadlock situation then, with Andrea who lays claim to his (significant) role not just in last season's results but in the Desmosedici's development. The Italian has, over the years, had to suck things up, never making any inappropriate comments. Ducati, though, wants to underscore its own role in the success as, while Dovi has been quick, it is also thanks to their bike.
Andrea expected to reach an agreement quickly. “We should never have ended up here” he has repeated on several occasions. So we have reached a point at which the renewal is not necessarily a given and Dovizioso has reluctantly found himself at the centre of the market.
Where could he go? Honda or Suzuki, but he wouldn't be doing so for money, as neither of the two manufacturers would be able to match the Ducati offer. Both seats are interesting, albeit it for different reasons, but in Honda Andrea would find a team that is clearly ‘Marquez-centric', while in Suzuki he'd be starting over from scratch.
So what was the simplest (but also the best) solution for the two parties has become complicated, while if they just stopped for a second, they'd realise that right now Dovizioso is as important to Ducati as Ducati is to Dovizioso. All this while trying to fight for the title against Marquez, who has a contract in his pocket and Honda's full support. The anxiousness in the garage can not be good.
The others then, starting with Lorenzo and Iannone, have to wait it out. The other Andrea, strong on the back of two consecutive podiums, is no longer an outlier in the Suzuki camp and Brivio's team remains his best option. Aprilia is interested in him, but the RS-GP is not at the level of the GSX-RR; there is also an option to return to Pramac with a factory Desmosedici (alla Petrucci) but would this be like eating leftovers.
And Jorge? We've already written about Monster's interest in Suzuki (orphaned by Tech3 that is moving to KTM, in turn linked to its competitor) and it's no mystery that Jorge has long been linked to the green energy drink. This would kill two birds with one stone but Lorenzo would like to stay with Ducati. Not for money, but to conclude work that has proved tougher than expected. If we were to leave Borgo Panigale, Petrucci and Miller are more than ready to take his place.
In truth, we've glossed over at least one very appetising seat: that of the satellite Yamaha. The problems within the Marc VDS team (read about team manager Bartholemy's departure) are complicating the negotiations with Iwata. If the Belgian team were to replace Tech3, one bike would go to Morbidelli, and the other? For Iannone and Lorenzo, moving to a satellite team would feel like going backwards, but considering what Zarco's doing, sometimes you have to take one step back to take two steps forward.