Ducati has a full house of riders in its hand - Dovizioso, Petrucci, Miller, Bagnaia, Zarco - but for the 2021 season it only wants a couple of aces.
When it’s time to sit down at the negotiating table, therefore, it will have to discard some of them. The question is: who?
Actually, some riders will not be dropped, they will only be repositioned, but it might be the case that the riders chosen for this role don’t necessarily accept the situation.
In the case of Andrea Dovizioso, for example, there is no change of role: for Dovi it’s either ‘in’ or ‘out’. A choice that, in reality, he already made in 2016 when Borgo Panigale proposed a substantial reduction of the retainer fee for both himself and Iannone. Andrea didn’t agree, and we know how it all turned out. The Vasto rider, who had also won at the Red Bull Ring, went to Suzuki. Today, if it were possible to rewind time, he would go back on his decision.
Dovizioso, like other riders, will be offered a downsized deal: will he accept?
But today will Dovizioso, after finishing runner-up in the world championship three times behind the incomparable Marquez, agree to a reduction, due to the new global economic situation?
There is no doubt that Andrea is at the top of Ducati's list of preferred riders, but it can also not be denied that a bit of rust has appeared between him and Gigi Dall'Igna and that the Venetian designer would like to entrust his competitive Desmosedici to some hungry youngsters. But can anyone measure up to the rider from Forlì?
At the moment the answer is no, although it is no mystery that Dall'Igna, after four second places by 'Jackass' in Austin, Brno, Aragon and Phillip Island, has developed a weakness for the Australian. And this notwithstanding the victory that Danilo Petrucci gave him at Mugello.
However, the fact remains that after a third place in Le Mans and the win on the Tuscan circuit, Petrux's performance headed in a downwards spiral, especially from the Czech Republic GP onwards; and this has drastically decreased the chances of the rider from Terni who will probably be offered a place in Superbike, as a replacement for Chaz Davies.
The most probable line-up in the factory team would therefore seem to be the one made up of Dovizioso and Miller, unless Pecco Bagnaia or Johann Zarco in the few races available prove that they deserve something more.
For Bagnaia and Zarco, staying in Ducati's orbit is top priority
For both these riders, staying in Ducati's orbit is a priority: Bagnaia, in fact, could be ‘promoted’, as is often the case in Borgo Panigale, to a factory GP21 bike, as well as the Frenchman. But the problem remains the same: if Dovizioso's #1 slot in Ducati is not in discussion, will Andrea once again accept a cut in salary to stay in Ducati?
Ducati or KTM-Red Bull for Dovizioso: a matter of priority
The Italian is the only one who can give an answer to this question because it is absolutely certain that Dovizioso, who is already in the Red Bull orbit, will receive an offer from KTM; the Austrian manufacturer needs an experienced top rider who at the same time is capable of driving forward development.
What will Dovi decide in the face of these two possibilities? Difficult to answer. Absurdly for both - Andrea and Ducati - the best thing would be to decide as far ahead as possible to see what will happen in this mini-championship which looks as if it will start in Jerez. It could be one final chance for both, after which, if the long-awaited victory does not arrive, what sense would there be to continue?
Should the long-awaited victory not arrive in 2020, what would be the sense in continuing?
And this is where there could be a surprise: if Jack Miller has a 50% chance of moving into the factory team, for the other 50% the ghost of Andrea Iannone is rapidly reappearing. Say what you want about Iannone, but he is fast.
The Miller-Iannone pairing would certainly break the mould for Ducati’s canons. Out with reason, in with inspiration, out with calmness, in with improvisation and madness.
The crazy idea of Miller-Iannone: a wild and buccaneering pair
We have already spoken about how much the Red Bull Ring winner regrets leaving Ducati. As well as the fact that in recent interviews he has declared his loyalty to the manufacturer that protected and pampered him during the severe disqualification - CAS appeal still pending - Aprilia.
But any eventual decision in this sense could upend all expectations…
Lawson, Kocinski and Stoner: instinctive choices in Ducati have always paid off
After all, a 'crazy' Ducati is what the fans have always been craving for. And since the Bologna manufacturer, like Cagiva in the good old days, won when it made instinctive choices - the arrival of Eddie Lawson in 1991, with victory the following year in Hungary and then John Kocinski in 1993, ending with Casey Stoner in 2007 - why not?
Of course, it would take a lot of courage. And even programs that are a lot more radical than those put into place, it seems, by the other manufacturers which have all drawn up two-year deals. Four years even for Honda.
To win there is also need for improvisation, so we expect that at least one of the two ‘red arrows’ will be offered an annual contract.