Time is running out fast for Jack Miller who will start the -8 countdown next week in Austria for the end of his adventure in Ducati that began in 2018.
Over the course of these five years 'Jackass' has scored two victories, all last year, four second places and eleven thirds.
Thirteenth in his first season with the boys in red, he has always improved his final position: 8th in 2019, 7th in 2020 and 4th last year. This year he is 6th behind the other Ducatisti, Bagnaia, Bastianini and Zarco. All in just 24 points.
On the zero front, he has picked up two, three each for the Frenchman from Pramac and the two Italians. Wasted opportunities if you think that the world championship leader, Fabio Quartararo, has only one zero, in Holland and Aleix Espargarò none even.
Carrying on from what we mentioned before, we would like to say that Jack has grown over the years, as a rider and as a character and that he is a perfect number 2. No team would want to do without him, and in fact KTM has not missed out on the opportunity, unless it is looking for a spearhead rider. Or unless it wants to race with two spearheads.
And this is exactly in the intentions of Ducati which, ever since Casey Stoner, has always been looking for that phenomenon that can bring back the riders' championship that has been missing from Borgo Panigale since 2007. Definitely too long.
With eight bikes on the track, the men of the Rosse squad undoubtedly have a good nursery in which to choose from, and that is why they gave up on Miller to flank Pecco Bagnaia with another spearhead. The choice, as is known, is reduced to two names: Enea Bastianini and Jorge Martin. Both fast and rapidly improving riders. Potentially and fortunately in possession of great talent, still not fully expressed.
The numbers, but also behaviour in the race, for the moment are tending to reward Enea, and not only because he is 4th in the world championship while Martin is only 11th. Nor is it because Bastianini has climbed the top step of the podium three times this year, while Jorge has only two second places to his credit.
The two in fact have different skills: the Italian has a clean riding style, consumes the tyres very little and is able to make a difference in the second part of the race, but is weak in qualifying; the Spaniard, on the contrary, is very fast in the flying lap and in the first part of the race. So which qualities to choose from when the goal is to place another number one alongside Pecco? Because this is the goal: to double the points in order not to risk - as is happening this year - losing yet another world championship despite having a fast rider on the team, and moreover with the best bike of the grid. A curse that Ducati has been carrying along with it since 2017.
The choice is not easy and moreover complicated by marketing reasons that Ducati denies but which do exist: a team with an Italian and a Spaniard plays on two markets.
A move to the factory team, for both riders, would be an important promotion with notable effects on the market and it’s easy to say that, in any case, the technical and economic treatment is already defined. When has a company ever been seen favouring a satellite team?
It is true what Carlo Perna, who is Bastianini’s manager, says; that in Pramac you have more freedom to move in a team of personal sponsors, but we are convinced that no rider, especially if at the beginning of his career, would not mind trading this in for the red livery of the factory Rosse.
However, the important news, irrespective of the (difficult) choice, is not which of the two riders will be called, but the fact that Ducati wants to race with a team with two spearheads. Which is equivalent, in a certain sense, to telling Pecco that from next year he will have to earn the role of first rider. It is no coincidence, in fact, that the status quo would have been good for Bagnaia.
Giving up on Jack Miller may not be a great sacrifice, but it has been done even after weighing up Francesco Bagnaia. And this is the great unknown factor of the 2023 pairing. More than which of the two will be the fastest, it’s character that should be taken into consideration. The question at this point becomes: who does Pecco fear the most between Bastianini and Martin?
But even after this answer there is room for two solutions, one more conservative than the other. Jorge's fury or Enea’s calm? Watch out because appearances can be deceiving.