Ducati and its embarrassment over the wealth of MotoGP riders

There was a point in 2020 when Ducati appeared to have won the bum deal in contract negotiations for the 2021 MotoGP World Championship season.

It had missed the chance to hire players like Fabio Quartararo, Joan Mir and Alex Rins, Andrea Dovizioso left the negotiating table and many felt that in the absence of Marc Marquez it did not score the open goal that meant the World Cup.

While Miller was signed to the factory team long before the delayed 2020 MotoGP season began, Ducati made the impression that it wasn’t entirely convinced of promoting Pramac Racing’s Bagnaia.

What a difference a year makes …

For a Ducati team that was used to getting what it wanted as soon as it opened its blank checkbook, it may have felt strange to have a hand, but it remained with two protégés eager to impress, experiences with Johann Zarco and on the youngsters Jorge Martin and Enea Bastianini proved to be inspired.

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As a result, the team was able to focus on honing the clearly powerful Ducati GP20 / GP21 package for riders familiar with the divisive intricacies of the setup, rather than hiring a rider to adjust to it. and the results speak for themselves.

With eight motorcycles – four GP22 and four GP21 – in its armada for next year, that means Ducati will enter the 2022 MotoGP World Championship as the logical favorite to continue what began in the second half of this season.

But most scorching tracks often come with a storm to break the heatwave and Ducati has a headache when it comes to arranging its riders for 2023.

The hangover of a fantastic MotoGP season

I use the term “headache” loosely. Ducati would rather be in a situation where it is playing a game of chess with too many pieces than too few. But that doesn’t mean it can’t rest on its laurels.

In a way, Bagnaia’s success in 2021 poses a problem for Ducati in 2022. There’s no doubt about the Italian’s talent, even if his first two seasons in MotoGP have been riddled with enough dips and mistakes to warrant a third season Pramac bike.

Then Dovizioso announced the end, and yet there was talk of Zarco being promoted via Bagnaia. This never happened and Bagnaia rewarded the confidence shown by Ducati with a great year that really picked up speed in the closing stages.

But look at it from a more cynical point of view and Ducati should have won the MotoGP World Championship in 2021 over Fabio Quartararo and Yamaha. Bagnaia threw out two key successes at Mugello and Misano, while his qualifying performance in the first half of the year left a lot to be desired.

On the other hand, it is the rider’s measure that he has not only recovered from these possibly season-defining mistakes, but also did so with interest; his victories in Aragon and Misano (Pt.1) under heavy pressure are among the best performances in recent years .

However, as I suggested earlier, it was this sequel by Miller and Bagnaia – albeit in different colors – that helped Ducati make the GP21 the bike it has tried to build for years.

There is no doubt that the Ducati is a rocket in a straight line, but its shortcomings in braking and turning negated that strength. Miller and Bagnaia, as well as Zarco and of course Michele Pirro, put down in 2021 and used the technical standstill to give themselves the chance to simply optimize and test these weaknesses without affecting the strengths.

This probably wouldn’t have happened if Mir, Rins, or Quartararo had come on board … just ask Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, and Cal Crutchlow.

Immerse yourself in the Ducati MotoGP talent pool

The 2022 MotoGP season is still a long way from the start, but now it’s time for managers to earn their 15% while negotiations for 2023 begin in earnest.

This poses a problem for Ducati. If Bagnaia has a firm certainty to stay with Ducati for 2023 and beyond, then things are a little more uncertain in a Ducati talent pool that will take on two more riders in 2022.

As it stands, Ducati faces a dilemma deciding whether to wait until the start of the 2022 MotoGP season to decide on their 2023 line-up. For now, only two seats are secured after 2022 – Franco Morbidelli at Yamaha and Marc Marquez at Honda, though the latter may depend on his increasingly worrying fitness level.

It’s fair to say that Miller’s long-awaited first season as a works driver didn’t live up to expectations. He started the year well with back-to-back wins, though with luck they came after Fabio Quartararo pumped him down his arm at Jerez and Le Mans was wet weather free for everyone.

After that, Miller looked nowhere else to be fighting for victories, which allowed Bagnaia to battle for the status of team leader of the Aussie by the end of the year.

Miller is an investment Ducati doesn’t want to throw away, but right now it’s head to head in the betting odds whether he or Martin is in demand on the scarlet Ducati GP23.

In Miller’s defense, 2021 should have been a trial run in the shadow of Dovizioso, where he turned out to be a better opponent than the outgoing Danilo Petrucci – which he comfortably achieved – before heading for the title in 2022, but those plans were thrown wrong. What wasn’t expected, and didn’t help Miller, is for Bagnaia to rise to be the company’s top candidate.

It doesn’t help either that Martin emerged as one of the breakthrough drivers of 2021. The Spaniard only had a pole position and a podium to land in his second MotoGP race before doing what Miller, Bagnaia and countless others had failed in previous years by leading Pramac Racing to the top of the podium in Austria .

Four pole positions, four podiums and one win made an excellent return from an injury-ridden rookie season.

However, if you dig below the stats, there are some doubts that Martin is ready for Ducati Red in 2023. Mistakes were common – perhaps understandable to a rookie – while his less-making headline results weren’t as glitzy either.

The same goes for the controversial standout rider of the year 2021, Moto2 champion Enea Bastianini, who put in some outstanding performances at the two-year Avintia Ducati GP19. His podiums at Misano – which he achieved at an exceptional race day pace – were the rides of the season.

While we reserve the right to judge some of his poor qualifying results due to his much older machine, Bastianini performed some miracles in 2021 that dwarfed Martin in many ways.

And that is Ducati’s problem. It has three drivers with huge potential that won’t be better understood until the first few laps of 2022. But can it afford to wait that long …?

Ducati and a bad case from FOMO

Of course, Ducati’s future plans don’t just depend on their own quarters … and their riders won’t depend on Ducati for their future either.

In fact, Ducati could find itself in a difficult negotiating position if it waits until the start of the 2022 season to decide how to mix its assets for 2023. In the meantime, Suzuki, Honda, and Yamaha might be able to catch the attention of Miller, Martin, and Bastianini if ​​they can assure them factory machines and / or a more accurate roadmap for the future if Ducati hesitates.

In addition, Ducati doesn’t just look inward. The new champion Quartararo has slightly ajar the door to alternative deals beyond Yamaha for 2023 and made it pretty clear that emails to him will not necessarily come back …

It’s a temptation Ducati is hard to resist, even if observers might point out that it shouldn’t afford a case of FOMO (fear of missing out) while focusing on what it already has.

And when you consider that we haven’t even started with Johann Zarco, who despite yet another winless season was Ducati’s top candidate for much of the year, while Marco Bezzecchi has all the qualities – and support – to “one” by 2022 To make Bastianini “. .

In summary, Ducati’s upcoming “silly season” is nothing “silly” … Going back to this chess analogy, Ducati has to think very carefully about its next moves if it is to checkmate its opponent.