He has 176 points and, with one race to go till the end, the numbers show that this was Danilo Petrucci's best season ever. If we then add his victory at Mugello and 3 podiums (consecutive ones), one would want to say that, for the rider from Terni, 2019 was a year to remember. But, that's actually not how it went down with the past few Grand Prixs, and Danilo ended up on the stand.
With great power comes great responsibility, or so the superheroes say, and the same goes for the riders when they enter an official team. Being fast is no longer enough. You simply have to aim for the podium at every opportunity, and a victory is nothing more than what is required to get on a bike and be on a team.
Petrucci already had several problems when he started his adventure with Ducati but, from Le Mans onward, he had convinced everyone he deserved his place alongside Dovizioso. A third place in France, then his magnificent success at Mugello, when he masterfully overtook Andrea and Marquez, then again a podium in Barcelona. At that moment, everyone was clamoring for his renewal with Ducati, which actually did arrive. Before the summer break, Danilo had finished 4th at the Sachsenring, a track that wasn't exactly a friend of the Desmosedici, but then something went wrong.
This time, the numbers were against the Ducatista: from Brno to Malaysia, he took home 55 points this year. Instead, in 2018, he had 60, and with one race less because Silverstone was canceled. This means that the 3rd place in the championship, which a few months ago seemed to be within his reach, has already become a pipe dream. With a 25 point advantage right before Valencia, Vinales' sole rival is Rins, to be able to place behind Marquez and Dovizioso. It won't be easy for Danilo to even aim for a 4th place, considering the 18 points that separate him from Rins and, if anything, he must defend himself in order to keep a 5th. Not a foregone conclusion, considering that Quartararo is behind him at 4 lengths and Rossi at 10.
If we really tried to see the glass half full, we could argue that Petrucci was the best "second rider" in the MotoGP. True, too bad that Lorenzo has practically withdrawn from the competition and that Valentino has made too many mistakes. As for Suzuki, Mir is a novice, and KTM and Aprilia can't play with the big guys for the moment.
The disappointment remains, but what happened to Danilo in the second part of the season? On the Ducati, in the last few racaes, he didn't seem like the same rider who had thrilled everyone at Mugello in the beginning of the year.
The rider from Terni never played the blame game: "I have to reset", "I'm the one who has to put the icing on the cake to make a good impression", were some of his statements. You can't argue with good intentions, but it has not been enough so far.
One of Danilo's main problems was in qualifying and the rankings of fastest rider in the flying lap (where the same points for race positions are given): Petrucci is 9th, with only Rins (among the so-called top riders) doing worse than him. He started in the front row only twice: in France and in Italy, which were great races. In the MotoGP, starting from the back has become a big problem, and Danilo has often not been the one to have great comebacks.
Another problem is that he wears out the tires too much because of his weight and because for his aggressive riding style. You can't do much about the first problem, also because Petrucci has gone on lots of strict diets so, given his large build, he can't do much more than that. But Danilo was heavy at Mugello too, yet this didn't stop him from winning. So they have to work on the second problem: his riding style, even if he should know the Ducati like the back of his hand now, the only "real" MotoGP he has ever ridden (leaving out the CRT and others).
You don't become part of an official team by accident, so it seems like Danilo, rather than improving, must parse through all this nonesense that has contributed to this mess up. Pressure and lack of results go hand in hand when you have all eyes on you, and it's easy to get caught up in a vicious circle.
To find a way out, he had been to Borgo Panigale before Thailand, and something seemed to have changed, but not enough. So there was talk about an exchange with Miller for his return to Pramac and a renewal described as almost impossible after 2020. In fact, there are many competing for his bike, both in-house and out. Starting from Jack, then Bagnaia, and finally Vinales, just to mention a few.
The solution in racing is only one: to respond with results. But there's not much time with a riders market that always opens early. The Valencia race, 4 or 5 Grand Prix races in 2020, and then there's the risk of already arriving late. Speed is everything, in both directions, when looking for a good bike to get on.
It'll be a long winter for Petrucci, and his only objective: to find that glimmer of light that he lost.