After all the speculation of massive changes in Ducati's MotoGP team, all is to remain the same. During the World Ducati Week event held for fans of the Italian marque at Misano, both Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow announced that they would be remaining with Ducati for 2015, with Crutchlow choosing not to exercise his option to leave, and Dovizioso being persuaded to sign on for two more years. In addition, Ducati exercised its option to extend the contract with Andrea Iannone, with Iannone to be given factory support.
The decisions by all three riders are a both a show of confidence in the ability of Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna to build a more competitive MotoGP machine, as well as a lack of alternatives elsewhere. The only other factory rides available are the two seats at Suzuki, but given the slow pace of the bike during testing and the amount of development work needed, that was a bigger risk than staying at Ducati.
Crutchlow's decision was perhaps the easiest to make: the option to stay or leave was in his hands alone, and although the relationship between the Englishman and Ducati is far from ideal, neither party had much of a choice. After a very strong season in 2013, Crutchlow has suffered a terrible slump in his form since joining Ducati. Twelve months ago, the question in the press room was when Crutchlow would win his first MotoGP race. This year, the question has been whether he would elect to stay or not. Crutchlow had options with Suzuki and interest from Honda, but they would have meant a reduction of wages without a guarantee of a competitive bike.
Dovizioso had also been high on Suzuki's target list of riders, but Ducati had worked very hard to keep the Italian on board. After a tough first year on the Ducati - a seemingly universal experience - Dovizioso is coming into his own this season, using the strengths of the Desmosedici GP14 to his advantage, and bagging two podiums along the way. Ducati Corse and Gigi Dall'Igna have praised Dovizioso's technical input, and believed it to be crucial for next year, when the Desmosedici is due to change so radically.
With Dovizioso and Crutchlow staying where they are, that leaves no room in the factory Ducati team for Andrea Iannone. Iannone had been pushing hard for promotion to the factory squad, and his results had certainly merited such a move. But Iannone, too, looks set to remain with Ducati, although in what form remains to be seen. Iannone is on the payroll of Ducati Corse, and it is possible that Iannone will be moved into a separate team with the joint colors of Pramac and Ducati Corse, according to reports on GPOne.com. Iannone, too, was high on the list of candidates for Suzuki.
The reason the three men have decided to remain with Ducati for the 2015 season is the promise of a radically revised machine for next year. At Misano, Gigi Dall'Igna reaffirmed earlier statements he had made about building a completely new machine for next season. The bike will have a new engine, although it will remain a 90° V4 and will continue to use desmodromic valve gear. The engine dimensions will be radically changed, however, the motor being lighter and shorter than the current powerplant. The revised power unit will allow greatly changed geometry and bike layout. That, in turn, should cure the chronic understeer which has plagued the Desmosedici since the advent of the spec tire.
The retention of Dovizioso, Crutchlow and Iannone leaves no room for Aleix Espargaro, who was rumored in the Spanish media to be close to a deal with Ducati. Espargaro is desperate to get on to a factory option bike, in the hope of being able to compete at the front. His only hope at Ducati is that they make space in the Pramac team and offer him identical support to Iannone, though there are no signs that Ducati has either the budget or the intention to do that. That puts Espargaro at the top of Suzuki's target list, as the fastest of the riders still available - with the proviso that Espargaro would need to be bought out of his contract. With the Ducati seats tied up, the remainder of the open seats should soon start to fall into place. News is expected soon of Maverick Viñales' future, and whether he will ride for Suzuki, and whether Jack Miller will make the leap up to MotoGP, and slot in at the LCR Honda squad. News of those decisions shoud also follow soon.