Ducati MotoGP bosses have sweetened the deal for either Miguel Oliveira or Alex Rins as they attempt to lure either to satellite squad Gresini Racing for 2023 and 2024 – by offering the team an extension to its own deal with Ducati to ensure that as new rider can come in on a two-year contract.
Originally switching from its status as Aprilia’s quasi-independent partner back to full satellite status in 2022 on a two-year deal, Gresini currently has a Ducati contract that is set to expire at the end of next year.
But, with big names available to replace Enea Bastianini (bound for either the factory team or factory machinery at the Pramac squad) following the collapse of Suzuki, Ducati has offered to extend that deal by a year.
“As you may know,” Ducati boss Paolo Ciabatti exclusively explained to The Race, “at the minute our contract with Gresini is just up until the end of 2023.
“If we look at riders like the riders who have been linked to the Gresini ride lately, I think that we need to give them the perspective of two years, so at the minute we are discussing with Gresini about the possibility of extending until 2024.
“This will put us and them in the position to offer a deal to a rider who eventually wants to be on a two-year deal.”
That sweetener comes as Gresini continues negotiations – in collaboration with Ducati – with at least two of the big names remaining on the unsigned list at this point.
Aiming to replace departing three-time race winner Bastianini with someone capable of maintaining the team’s strong performances, team commercial boss Carlo Merlini admitted that Oliveira and Rins remain on their target list.
“Yes, they are two of the very, very few available,” he said when asked by The Race about the option of signing either of them, “at least, the kind of riders who can secure our aim to secure top positions.
“Most likely Enea will leave, and together with Ducati we are discussing the few options that are available. The plan is to have a very strong line-up to keep doing well.
“I cannot predict that we are going to win three races again next year, but for me good means a range of top fives and sixes, so that is the target.”
However, it’s not as certain as it seemed earlier in the weekend at the German Grand Prix that Oliveira is lined up to put pen to paper with the Italian team despite ongoing negotiations.
He’s also been linked to new satellite Aprilia squad RNF for 2023 – and there are even rumors that he may now be prepared to bury the hatchet with current employer KTM and consider its offer of a step down to satellite Tech3 squad, a move that would undoubtedly be the best-rewarded of his options financially.
One thing that could tip Oliveira further towards a Tech3 deal is knowing that it would come with 2023-spec machinery, something that is very unlikely to happen at Gresini, according to Merlini, with the team instead set to continue as this year and inherit the factory team’s 2022 bikes next season
“I would say that it [a factory-spec bike] quite unlikely for next year,” he said, “but that’s not something that makes me cry every night. You see what Enea is doing with the 2021 machine. It might be a target for us in a longer view of the partnership with Ducati.
“Maybe we can think of having a factory machine in the garage on either side – but I would say it’s very, very unlikely for 2023.”
One piece of the grid puzzle that should slot into place relatively soon, though, is the future of the other side of the Gresini box, with the team almost ready to announce that rookie Fabio Di Giannantonio will remain for 2023.
“Diggia is progressing very well,” Merlini added, “absolutely, and I think he is proving to deserve his extension to the contract.
“We had the two-year agreement for 2021 for Moto2 which already provided the move to MotoGP for 2022, and I think it makes sense to give to him the MotoGP project a fair term of two years, so we’re working on that. ”