MotoGP Silly Season Update: KTM Confirms Line Up, Stalemate At Ducati

KTM sporting director Pit Beirer (left) and Danilo Petrucci

That Danilo Petrucci was heading to KTM was an open secret, after the Italian and his manager, Alberto Vergani, visited the Austrian factory's race department in Mattighofen. That he would not be replacing Pol Espargaro in the factory Red Bull KTM team is a huge surprise. Instead, Petrucci is to switch to the Tech3 satellite team, and take the place of Miguel Oliveira, who is to be moved up to the factory squad.

According to Italian media, the reasons Petrucci is headed to the Tech3 team are twofold: firstly, as the KTM press release makes clear, because all four KTM RC16s will be full-factory spec, and with full factory support. And secondly, because Brad Binder had a clause in his contract stating he would be in the factory team in his second year.

Petrucci's negotiating hand was clearly not strong enough to demand a seat in the factory team. If he wanted to remain in MotoGP, his other option was to try to sign with Aprilia, but that would have meant waiting to see what happens with Andrea Iannone. Aprilia have made it clear they are willing to wait for Iannone's doping case to be heard at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, or CAS, and there is as yet no official date for a hearing. The earliest that is likely is in August, however, and by that time, the KTM option could have disappeared.

Petrucci also had the offer of a seat in Ducati's WorldSBK team, but the Italian was determined to stay in MotoGP. In that case, there was only the Tech3 seat vacated by Oliveira on offer.

Friends reunited

Oliveira's promotion to the factory team was the most logical step for KTM. The Portuguese rider had expressed public dismay at Brad Binder being given the factory ride ahead of him, when Johann Zarco announced he was leaving the factory squad a year early after a disastrous first half of 2019. At the time, Oliveira was a victim of Tech3's reluctance to lose an experienced rider, and be saddled with two rookies for 2020. With the arrival of Danilo Petrucci, Tech3 get an experienced rider and Grand Prix winner, and someone they can be confident of being competitive from the off.

Moving Oliveira to the factory team keeps the Portuguese rider in the KTM family. Like Binder, Oliveira is a long-time KTM rider, having ridden in both Moto3 and Moto2 for the Austrian factory, for many years alongside Binder. Oliveira lost the second half of 2019 to injury, after having been taken out by Johann Zarco at Silverstone and damaging his shoulder, but had been showing good progress until then. Oliveira has been quick at the test currently taking place at Misano.

All of this means, and the press release acknowledges, that Pol Espargaro is leaving. Though the press release says merely that KTM and Espargaro wish to "pursue different paths", it is an open secret that Espargaro is close to a deal with the Repsol Honda team, though rumors persist that he could also take a seat in the factory Ducati team, especially as the negotiations with Andrea Dovizioso continue to drag on. Repsol Honda is a better fit for Espargaro, the KTM and Honda requiring very similar riding styles, and being very similar bikes.

The completion of KTM's line up also leaves no room for Jorge Martin in 2021. The Spaniard, currently riding for the KTM Ajo team in Moto2 (on a Kalex, now that KTM have withdrawn from the Moto2 class), was a hot favorite to move up to MotoGP for next season, but the logjam of talent for KTM left little room for him. Instead, Martin is expected to join the Pramac Ducati squad for 2021, as teammate to Pecco Bagnaia. Neither rider has been confirmed yet, however.

Stalemate

The next stumbling block for the 2021 line up is Andrea Dovizioso. The Italian is still stuck in negotiations with Ducati, with money apparently the issue. Dovizioso's last contract was negotiated after finishing second in 2017, and during a highly successful 2018 campaign, and was decidedly generous. But with the COVID-19 pandemic causing huge economic problems, money is significantly tighter. Add to this Dovizioso's performance in 2019 – only two victories, and a massive points deficit to Marc Márquez, despite still finishing second – and it is clear that Ducati are looking to save money. According to Italian website GPOne.com, Dovizioso has an offer for next of of three million euros, a significant cut from the eight million he received in 2019.

Some reports suggest that Ducati are not just looking to save money in 2021, but also in 2020. Ducati are trying to cut Dovizioso's salary for this year, as well as next, and that is causing bad blood for the negotiations for 2021.

Here again, Dovizioso's options are limited. His choices are basically to extend with Ducati or retire. Though the Italian has said he does not want to continue racing forever, he has shown no desire to hang up his helmet for 2021. There is also the option of Aprilia, but again, that requires Aprilia to decide to move on from Andrea Iannone, and it also means sacrificing a year or so to get to grips with the new bike before being able to compete.

Return ticket?

To add to the confusion, rumors persist that Jorge Lorenzo could return to Ducati. Spanish sports daily AS.com even puts the odds at 50%. Public statements by Ducati, such as Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna, are more skeptical, saying that they understand how Lorenzo would want to be remembered for his disastrous last year in MotoGP with Repsol Honda, but that it is 'difficult to understand his motivation'. Seeing Lorenzo's posts on social media, he does not look like he is training flat out to prepare for a return to racing at the very highest level.

The reality is that Ducati and Dovizioso will have to break their impasse first, however, one way or another. That could take some time, though.

The currently confirmed MotoGP rider line up for 2021 is as follows:

Rider Bike Contract until
Monster Energy Yamaha
Maverick Viñales Yamaha M1 2022
Fabio Quartararo Yamaha M1 2022
     
Repsol Honda
Marc Márquez Honda RC213V 2024
     
     
Suzuki Ecstar
Alex Rins Suzuki GSX-RR 2022
Joan Mir Suzuki GSX-RR 2022
     
Ducati Factory
Jack Miller Ducati Desmosedici GP21 2021 (option for 2022)
     
     
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
Aleix Espargaro Aprilia RS-GP 2022
     
     
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Brad Binder KTM RC16 2021
Miguel Oliveira KTM RC16 2021
     
Red Bull KTM Tech3
Danilo Petrucci KTM RC16 2021
Iker Lecuona KTM RC16 2021
     
Avintia Ducati
Tito Rabat Ducati 2021

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Source: 
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Comments

... however I hope he's getting the latest greatest machinery from KTM (at least to start the season), he deserves it.

Years ago after another red team management disaster (can't remember what it was now) (red team management disaster would be a great band name) some wag here below the line commented that Ducati is just Italian for Honda. I still chuckle about that now. Imagine mooting giving your number one man a pay cut. I just can't even.

The big news here is retaining Oliveira in the Factory seat. Little need for tea leaves to be soiled with more over here.

Re Martin, cart before the horse on him isn't that there isn't room for him in Orange, he chose Red and we await announcement. The Dovi logjam will open soon enough, he will take the pay cut and stay. Odds that he is seriously looking at a jump to Aprilia to that freshly minted bike? Not zero, and not very likely either.

That makes the next braking marker the 2nd Aprilia seat. Not in a position to take Danilo now, nor perhaps feeling a need to. They are likely focusing on their less hurried consideration of one of the several Moto2 riders that look good after Binder, Martin and A.Marquez.

Lorenzo to Duc not impossible if Dovi to Aprilia or retires. Both not likely.

I keep in mind that we hear unfiltered raw reactive criticism of team management from riders (much like when they just get off a bike and gesticulate). But the information management shares is more coy and strategic, with much left out regarding context and the greater situation. For instance here, Petrucci and his manager paint a pretty full picture of his perspective. Same for Dovisioso. We have to speculate re the other side of the table. Not just any conjecture, we are fans, and make very personalized extrapolation.

Good chess moves KTM. Same goes for Yamaha, and Suzuki. Honda has been playing checkers re riders, and still got Pol to finally take over for Pedrosa join the Marc. There will be peace and stability there, if they can improve some on that bike's unplanted front achilles heel and make Alex feel loved and at home in the LCR garage. (I hope for one of these two to go great, and the other to keep being a disaster that doesn't end anyone's career or ability to walk).

Next thing to see? The Aprilia drag race and reliability. Four Moto2 kids are looking. On the margin, watch Crutchlow sign for 1 year and Taka go to WSBK.

Shh! If you are quiet, you can almost hear the engines warming up in pitlane at Jerez...

...and Yamaha is going to fight at the pointy end.

;)

... Martin seems like a massive loss. He's something special & appears to have just as much a grasp of a Moto2 bike as he did n Moto3. That said, the Ducati may not be the  best fit (always looked like a Yamaha-style rider to me).

I still can't get my head around the whole Pol to Repsol thing, I find it completely mind-boggling.

"Marc, we love you so much we're firing your brother before he's even raced a single lap"

It's not just shooting yourself in the foot, it's reloading the gun and shooting the other foot as well.

Could it  be that Marc bought a year for his brother with the olympiad?

A year which was all clear for everyone it may have concerned.

What a very Honda move 😀. This saves AM and gives him the opportunity to prepare for a future factory seat IF he shows the right potential. This year was always going to be a stop gap year for the factory until it got sorted with the long term plan. Pol is a great fit for that team and moving Alex has allowed that long term plan to be put into play. If Pol doesn't perform as expected they can always bring AM back if he lifts his game. He takes time to develop and won't be ready for the full factory ride for a couple of years. Better to do some damage limitation now than have to throw him to the wolves too soon. I'm sure that reatining AM in LCR will be an appeasement to MM as well as it is the lesser of two evils. He's pragmatic and will understand why this is being done from Honda's perspective. He won't want to see his besty brother fail and will understand that this move will be in everyones interest.

Jorge! Don't do it. Don't even think about it. You have alucrative test rider deal going. No need to come back as it will not end up well. You'll just get all frustrated again and have to go into MotoGP hell. Just think about it ...... no need to train, no need to make excuses for not fitting into the leathers anymore, no one judging you for being on holidays when you should be training to try and fit into the leathers. Many other riders would envy you right now ... take the money and run.

How many sleeps to go now unti the racing begins? Cry havoc and unleash the bikes of war!!!!!!! 

What a very Honda move 😀. This saves AM and gives him the opportunity to prepare for a future factory seat IF he shows the right potential. This year was always going to be a stop gap year for the factory until it got sorted with the long term plan. Pol is a great fit for that team and moving Alex has allowed that long term plan to be put into play. If Pol doesn't perform as expected they can always bring AM back if he lifts his game. He takes time to develop and won't be ready for the full factory ride for a couple of years. Better to do some damage limitation now than have to throw him to the wolves too soon. I'm sure that reatining AM in LCR will be an appeasement to MM as well as it is the lesser of two evils. He's pragmatic and will understand why this is being done from Honda's perspective. He won't want to see his besty brother fail and will understand that this move will be in everyones interest.

Jorge! Don't do it. Don't even think about it. You have alucrative test rider deal going. No need to come back as it will not end up well. You'll just get all frustrated again and have to go into MotoGP hell. Just think about it ...... no need to train, no need to make excuses for not fitting into the leathers anymore, no one judging you for being on holidays when you should be training to try and fit into the leathers. Many other riders would envy you right now ... take the money and run.

How many sleeps to go now unti the racing begins? Cry havoc and unleash the bikes of war!!!!!!!