Andrea Dovizioso is undoubtedly one of the biggest names missing on the track in this 2021. The former Ducati rider was a leading player in the rider transfer market for almost all of 2020, but the end of the story was not exactly what he wanted. First negotiations with KTM to which he had said no, then the non-renewal with Ducati. From there two more negotiations, one with Yamaha for the role of test rider, which was then nabbed by Cal Crutchlow and finally the possibility of Aprilia, rejected because it was considered uninteresting for a number of reasons.
All with the backdrop of the scenario represented above all by Marc Marquez who first seemed ready to return to the bike as early as the end of 2020, and who then actually underwent a third operation that will keep him away from the track for a long time.
Dovizioso and Battistella: an excess of confidence?
Now that several months have passed since the riders' market was ‘red-hot’, it seems that Dovizioso has remained with the classic short end of the stick, because although Marquez's return to the bike seems far away, that bike now seems destined for Stefan Bradl for most of the season. Yet Dovizioso and his manager Simone Battistella have pulled out their final card, namely Dovizioso's willingness to compete in the Qatar tests on the Honda. A very different willingness to what had previously been shown, because until a few days ago Dovizioso had always rejected the idea of racing to replace Marquez ‘just’ for a few Grands Prix, expecting instead a commitment for the full season.
It is also understandable for a rider to try to keep his value very high - not so much from an economic point of view, but also from that of prestige. Dovizioso was the world championship runner-up three times behind Marquez, was undoubtedly the main antagonist of the Spaniard between 2017 and 2019 and he was also the only rider capable of giving Ducati numerous victories. But all this pedigree melted into slush in 2020 when Dovizioso's talent was clouded by his inability to adapt to the new Michelins.
Andrea did nothing but repeat that the problem was the tyres, but with those same tyres his brand mates in Ducati were often faster. It is true that Dovizioso, thanks to his perseverance, managed to finish fourth overall in the standings and first Ducati rider. Yet during the season that has just ended, Dovizioso was truly brilliant only on one occasion, namely in Austria. Among other things, only in one of the two GPs that were held there. Miller didn’t win, but he was unlucky and on at least three occasions he retired not because of his demerits, but because of pure bad luck. Bagnaia was very fast in Jerez, then he got injured in Brno and at Misano he picked up a second place and also a race in which he could have triumphed by dominating. Petrucci also beat his old friend at Le Mans and Zarco himself was a thorn in the side, especially in qualifying, for the three-time world championship runner-up.
Where are we going with all this? Dovizioso pushed the envelope together with Battistella during the negotiation phases with the other manufacturers, but he did it in the dark, that is, without having yet taken to the track in 2020. He believed he was indispensable for Ducati, but Dall'Igna thought otherwise. He then snubbed the possibilities represented by Aprilia and Yamaha when it was clear that there were no more other chances and, in the end, he only clung to the hope, and we are not afraid to say something malicious, that Marquez could announce that he won’t be racing for the whole of 2021, which at the moment does not seem plausible at all.
Battistella and that overture towards Honda. A coffee before the dinner invitation
In an interview a few days ago with his colleagues from Sky Sport MotoGP, Battistella said that Dovizioso is ready and that he is working to return 100% in 2022, and also that the idea of competing in the tests on a Honda in Qatar could be the right opportunity to get to know each other. The way you do with a girl, basically. A coffee before the real dinner invitation. For the moment however, it does not seem that the beautiful girl in question, the RCV213, is particularly tempted by the idea of enjoying delicious Arabica blend in the company of the rider who regularly walloped her beloved Marc on the track...
From a certain point of view, Battistella's move seems to be a bit of a surrender, because it in fact disavows the attitude held by Dovizioso in recent months. Perhaps the manager has realized that the cards left to play are not as good as he thought, because if you come to the table with two aces, you can easily lose to anyone who has a set of deuces. Honestly, this whole situation is reminiscent of a poker table, where you sit and wonder who is the sucker on the table. The problem is that in poker, if you are wondering who the sucker is, it’s probably you…