Andrea Dovizioso And Michael van der Mark: Different Series, Similar Story?

Andrea Dovizioso on the podium at the 2019 round of MotoGP at Spielberg, Austria - Photo Cormac Ryan Meenan

A strange week in the rider market took another turn with the threat from Simone Battistella, manager of Andrea Dovizioso, claiming that his rider would sit out 2021 in search of the right opportunity the following year.

It’s a brave gamble to take, but with Dovi set to be 36 years old by the time the season starts in 2022, it looks like a hollow threat. If Dovi sits out a year at this stage of his career, he would find it very difficult to get back on a competitive bike in the MotoGP field.

As things stand who has more leverage? Ducati, with Jack Miller under contract - not to mention having Johann Zarco, Pecco Bagnaia and a host of other riders waiting in the wings - or a 34-year-old veteran threatening to call time on his MotoGP career?

Youth vs experience

The answer seems pretty much self-evident. Speak to MotoGP managers about riders, and they will tell you that age is a big factor, preferring youthful potential over age and experience. This is one reason managers give when you ask them about signing riders from the WorldSBK paddock: they are too old, is the general consensus, with teams preferring to take a risk on a young rider from Moto2.

Andrea Dovizioso faces the same fate. If he chooses to sit out 2021, it is more likely that Ducati will choose to reshuffle their current stock of talent to make room for a fast youngster from Moto2 in either Pramac or Avintia, rather than give in to Dovizioso's demands.

It’s a sad state of affairs for Dovizioso as he clearly deserves to be paid. He’s finished second in the championship for the last three years and is closing on Casey Stoner’s record number of podiums for Ducati. He should feel aggrieved, and his manager should be flexing his bargaining muscles.

Deja vu

Could we have seen a foreshadowing of these negotiations in the WorldSBK paddock, perhaps? The news that Michael van der Mark elected to leave Yamaha for BMW in WorldSBK was greeted with a gasp by many. After enjoying a very successful three-year stint (sound familiar?) with the Japanese manufacturer, he opted for BMW. Why did he leave and will he be the only free agent to make a similarly surprising decision?

There are plenty of tea leaves that can be read about what we’re seeing in the rider market, but Van der Mark could be a telling domino to fall. His reasons for leaving will be varied, performance and potential will have counted, but we’ll see in the coming months that money, as always, will be a very important factor in the rider market.

Having won races, including the Suzuka 8 Hours for Yamaha, the Dutchman would have expected to see a certain offer come his way. When it was less, he may have felt it was best to look at his other options. It’s not an easy decision for a rider to leave a team and a bike that has proven successful. But it does become easier when the numbers don’t add up.

Money's too tight to mention

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the motorcycle industry hard. Factories were forced to shut down production and dealerships in many countries remained closed for a prolonged period of time. The realities of that shutdown have set in; penny pinching has become a key reality for many.

The same pattern is being seen across the sport. Dovizioso will find that at the negotiating table with Ducati. The same is rumoured to be happening to Chaz Davies in WorldSBK, and other personnel within the Italian squad. When belts are being tightened, it gets harder and harder for everyone.

Leverage?

“Ducati prefers to wait a few races before starting the negotiation with Dovizioso,” explained Battistella to the Spanish DAZN "Cambia el mapa MotoGP podcast. “The rider always wants a better bike to win, a constant evolution on all technical aspects. The rider always wants more. Of course, Andrea wants the bike to go better, especially in certain situations in which the circuits do not adapt to the characteristics of the bike. I think it is a normal aspect, which always happens, but I also think that the rider should improve his way of interpreting the bike.

“In recent years I’ve noticed that the Márquez-Honda pairing has managed to create a harmony with the rider that no one else has. That combination has shown everyone a different style: the bike must support the characteristics of the rider and rider must be able to interpret the bike in the best way. Others should seek that.

“Everyone could see the tension [last year]. When things get tough, there is tension. In any box, when results don’t come there is tension. It’s not a unique situation. Those tensions don’t necessarily mean negativity, because both have the same objective. Ducati and Dovizioso have been the only ones who have competed with HRC and Márquez in the Championship. The only alternative to Márquez has been Ducati and Dovizioso and that has also been the result of tension.”

Negotiating package

Moving forward in the silly season the majority of MotoGP seats are filled, and if Dovizioso did opt to sit for a year it would be a move that would all but end his career as a premier class title challenger. As Battistella commented, it is now difficult to win in MotoGP if you don’t have the package where a rider can adapt to the bike and the team adapt to the man sitting on the bike.

This is almost certainly where the two parties are at odds. For Battistella, the priority has always been the entire package, and not just the financial side of a contract. But money means something too: the budget a factory is willing to spend on a rider is a reflection of their commitment to winning in MotoGP. If they are cutting corners with the rider, it may mean they are spending less on the project than they need to win.

With that in mind, and the Covid-19 reductions in resources, there are still some very interesting deals to follow. What happens at Aprilia in MotoGP? Will Davies stay with Ducati? Who will replace Van der Mark at Yamaha? The most interesting players to follow will be behind the scenes with rider managers looking to earn their crust and grow their reputations. It can be a risky game to play but one that the rewards can be big.


This is part of a series of articles published in partnership with RacingLowdown.com, run by MotoMatters.com contributor Steve English.

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Comments

Dovi may have been second for the last 3 years and great for the majority of the season but over a whole season he doesnt have it. If I was Ducati I wouldnt be worried about letting him go. Others are waiting to get in there. He is solid but not exceptional and to win a championship solid isnt enough( you could maybe argue NH69 was solid not exceptional)

 

Dovi is "solid but not exceptional"? I'd hate to hear your description of the rest of the riders!

125cc World Champion, 250cc runner up to Lorenzo, 3 time MotoGP championship runner up to the best racer the sport has ever seen, 14 MotoGP wins to his name in an era where electronics and tyres provide no advantage to the Factory teams.

How many other riders have run MM down to the wire in the course of a championship as AD did in 2017?  Lorenzo and Rossi basically, which is pretty good company.

Who knows how the ensuing seasons would have panned out but for that infamous 2018 Jerez Dovi/Lorenzo/Pedrosa crash which destroyed Dovi's momentum and dumped the pressure on, and same for 2019 when Lorenzo took out all the main contenders bar MM at Catalunya, leaving MM free and clear in both race and championship.

Dovi's "problem" is that he IS quite exceptional, but does it all with a minimum of fuss and histrionics.  There is none of Rossi's flamboyance, Vinales bipolar ebulience -> petulance, Lorenzo's arrogance, no lighning bolt appearance like Quatararo/Zarco, or the cutting comments of a Crutchlow which gain more attention than his usual 7th-9th championship placing deserves......he just gets the job done quietly and efficiently and easily outperforms the lot of them.

Dovi is realistically in a class of his own, it is just unfortunate that an otherworldly MM is in an extraterrestrial class above him, otherwise he'd be considered one of the greats.

My assumption is that Dovisioso will be remembered as a "very good." Lots of well deserved respect for what he did and how he did it. A rider that did the grind (and cleverly) to reach the front from the group just behind it. But one of many. The list is much longer than that of the greats. Full of wonderful riders, and some with GREAT character, like Dovi. You nearly HAVE to like the guy.

2017 Season?
ALIEN! One of the very best ever. Lots of yelling and cheering. So much to see, excitement.
:)

Everything aside, Ducati pretty much have zero chance of coming in 2nd in the championship in 2021. Miller is most certainly capable of flashes of brilliance, Rins and Mir too. Fabio will be all fired up and ready to go, and Vinales will be fast, ocassionally. But if Ducati want a sure shot at 2nd in the championship in 2021, Dovi is the only racer who can deliver. I mean, the last time I checked, the prize money for 2nd in the championship was not half bad, and 2nd in the championship against Marc Marquez is almost as good as first anyway. Lorenzo could probably do it, but there's no way he could out race Marquez over the course of an entire season. 

 

Has Ducati not considered the possibility... that if MM93 were to hurt himself in 2020/2021 and not race a few races... Ducati could become World Champions, but only WITH DesmoDovi. :) 

It seems that the Dovi camp is bargaining with an eye on the past, assuming that 2021 will be a return to the normal that we all are familiar with. And Ducati looks to be hedging their bets against a new normal that is yet to be understood aside from the recent past of reduced sales. What the reaction to the coronavirus has exposed is the fraility of capitalism. No one speaks of the Asian flu pandemic of 1957-58 that killed an estimated 1-4 million people. This virus underwent an antigenic shift and became the Hong Kong flu pandemic of the late 1960s with similar fatality estimates as the Asian flu.The Hong Kong flu, in it's varied mutations, continues to plague humanity today and is referred to as influenza. We are all familiar with flu season and the influenza that W.H.O. estimates is responsible for hundreds of thousands of fatalities every year. We've been dealing with the current influenza virus for more than 60 years. It's possible that an as yet to be discovered vaccine may control this covid-19 thing. Or not. We might be stuck with it. This unknown must be having some bearing on the tension between the two parties.

Obviously we're all passionate about the racing and hope that it will continue as we know it. But will it? Is there a possible end in sight? At the end of the day it is just a tool for people and organisations to make money. Perhaps COVID-19 has given them time to reassess their beneficial interests and the future. The reality is that the younger generation(s) are less interested in motor sports, electronic vehicles appear to be enivitable, there's the uncertianty of having future races, and limited attendance to races and sponsors events. Doesn't matter how much you think your worth, or should be worth, the commercial reality is simply that your only worth what you're worth to those paying you, and sadly at this moment they are probably facing an up hill battle as well. Vettel has found himself in the same situation in F1. A young gun mixing it with the front pack and getting some results is probably a much better marketing tool than a good reliable rider who has been doing that for years?

Magic Michael van der Mark has a ride for 2021. this is good for SBK & BMW. And Michael himself of course.

Andrea Dovizioso I'm not sure what is going on there or what's likely to happen.

Found this article on GpOne;

https://www.gpone.com/en/blog/paolo-scalera/2020/06/23/heres-why-ducati-has-only-lorenzo-as-an-alternative-to-dovizioso.html

Paolo Scalera suggests Ducati are unlikely to secure a better rider than A.D.04, I think this may be correct. Marc Marquez is the only rider to finish ahead of Dovi for the last three years, Ducati won't get MM93 that's for sure.

Who else is fast enough, available and interested in riding the red rocket? Pol Espargaro?no heading towards Honda. Cal? no C.C.35 tried Ducati once & didn't like it. Johann Zarco ? maybe but I don't see J.Z. 5 wining a championship against Marc. Nakagami? I don't think so. Franco Morbidelli is Italian & fast, maybe not rapid enough now, hasn't set the world on fire like his team mate Fabio Q. not many available in the MotoGp class.

A rider from Moto2 maybe but who? Jorge Martin may do well in MotoGp, but it is a gamble. No one knows yet if Martin will adapt to the Bologna bullet. I hope Jorge Martin does the business on a Ducati. Wait for next year.

Balda could be good & has the right passport. Not likely to be second in MotoGp anytime soon but maybe.  Bezzecchi? Gardner? Sure I'd love to see Remy Gardner do well on a Ducati. Apparently KTM rate Remy, but he decided to spend more time chasing the Moto2 championship.

The season starts at Jerez. Bring it on! Soon please, I need soome crazy fast excitement.

...so, FIFY: "In recent years I’ve noticed that Márquez has managed to create a harmony with the [bike] that no one else has."

 

Very strange quote to come from Dovi's manager. Dovi wants development of the bike to go a certain way, and Gigi keeps rebuffing him. I would have thought Dovi's manager would be on Dovi's side

The Ducati makes great reliable power. They made a big step with the handling in 2015. They need to make another one.

Dovi is great rider, but like Gibernau and Pedrosa before him, he won't win any championship, he's too soft.
Rossi, Lorenzo, Stoner and Marquez couldn't/can't stand being second.

Let us not forget that when it came down to last lap, last corner battles, Dovizioso has come out on top over Marquez almost every time... 

I consider last year's Austrian GP as a good indicator of how much the RC213V gained on the GP19 in the off season. A race at what may arguably be Ducati's strongest track which turned into a lights out to checkered flag brawl between Marquez and Dovizioso, which Dovi won by a whisker by doing what he's not known for - stuffing it up the inside and throwing his bike at the apex with no real plan. The three Ducati wins last year at their strongest tracks - Qatar, Mugello and Austria - resulted in a combined total of less than three tenths of a second to the second place finisher (Marc Marquez on the Honda). Simply put, the results of last year indicate that Honda package has improved more than the Ducati package. How much of that is Dovizioso's responsibility is still debatable. 

I see that, but also something quite different. The Honda package is shite. It made a big step in outright power only, and left negligent the rest. Marc could then dial back his WAY overriding to just quite overriding.

The Ducati looks to have just made a big step on it's goal of a weak area re getting into and holding a line in sweepers. Honda? Took a wrong turn, suffered, and got back to same shite via aero changes.

Dovi is doing really well. So have Miller and Danilo. So has Crutchlow. Marc is the exception here. Now, so is Fabio.

Pre Gigi Ducati bike memories are fading. That bike? It is actually the Honda now! But they have even less excuses. And The Marc.

Ducati was just screwed on their 3 or so rider signing hopes, first of which one of Yamaha's two. Or a Binder. They had to settle for wee preemie Martin, the memory of #27, regrets re how they handled that, and a bunch of patience.

Hey Ynherag! Pedrosa won three World Championships in a row. 2003-2004-2005. 
He was 125cc World Champion in 2003 and 250cc world champion in 2004 and 2005. 

As for Dovi (already a 125cc World Champion) being soft...
well, for the last three seasons, Marquez has simply been at the top of his game. 

Also, the 2020 season being shorter, is actually Dovi's best chance of becoming MotoGP world champion. 

This might be his year, specially if Marquez doesn't do too well at two or three races. 

 

Don't get me wrong Neo, I'm a huge fan of those guys, I was gutted when Pedrosa crashed and lost any chance to win his championship.
But you have to be on the podium each time and taking second place when you lose!
If only Ducati had been more patient.

In 2019 no one was in 2nd. Or third. Duc can likely do no better than Dovi next yr, yes. He is surgical, precise, measured, planned. Amazing tire management and strategy. Great race craft. But there are more considerations, including that Dovi can not likely do better than Dovi has. He does not over ride the bike. He does not ride around shortcomings. His off weekend can look like a totally different tip toeing mid pack rider. Duc is looking to the next rider to come. So Dovi needs to adjust to this new status as 2nd rider at a Factory team that has very much been struggling to get a rider that can make the most of their wonderful bike and challenge for a Championship. Including struggling with him, which has not helped.

1) MM93 420pts
151 POINT GAP
"2)" AD04 269pts
154 POINT GAP would reach to...
10) Morbidelli 115pts

Marc stands on last season's podium alone, on the 4th best bike. Amongst the Ducati, Suzuki and Yamaha last year, which was the best? Clearly not guttered Yamaha. Some may argue Suzuki. I say Duc. I don't envy the position of either parties. It isn't either's fault that Marc is here.

Attention shifted elsewhere may benefit Dovi, reducing pressure, frustration, and distraction. Lean on Bagnaia like you did Dovi. Leave Zarco a real breadcrumb trail to Red and good support. Get Martin going w great kit and staff. Praise Dovi for his Pedrosaness and actualized accomplishments, shift to cultivating him as an older development guy to keep. Let the younger riders provide pressure. And yeah, shift pay from salary to bonuses so he can earn what he wants if he does what you want. Make it less personal and adversarial.

(And I REALLY like Professor Hard Work Dovisioso)

MotoGP has gone through several periods of insurmountable dominance. Marquez point hauls are huge, but a big part of that is race count inflation. I am sure at Rossi's peak people never thought the end of his reign would come, yet here we are. It all takes time. Though to be honest, barring injury, I can definitely see Marquez taking a few more championships, at least until Yamaha gets its ducks in a row. He is scared of Fabio.

Rossi's compound fracture at Mugello in 2010 didn't stop him from returning to the grid after four races. Inspite of a break in his shin bone, he still came back and got 7 podiums that season. 

He moved to Ducati the following two seasons and that ended up being worse for him than a bone sticking out of his shin. 

And i agree, barring injury, nothing will stop Marquez from a few more world championships. Marc has really matured and Fabio, as blisteringly fast as he is, doesn't yet have the mental resolve to beat Marquez over the course of an entire season (Though i hope he does.).

Like Rossi himself said in 2013 after Marquez had been in MotoGP for just a few races... "Yes, it's possible that he has the potential to be the greatest of all time." 

Everybody assumes that the RC213V is not the best bike on the grid due to tha failings and complaints coming from other riders not name Marc Marquez. We all assume that Marquez could win an almost any bike on the grid due to the talent he displays on the idiosyncratic Honda. Until that happens we will not know it for sure. It is possible that the RC213V's entire package (team, manufacturer, etc) brings the best out of Marquez. It's possible that the difficult nature of the Honda is a perfect fit for Marc's riding style, and that he would shine less brightly on a different bike.

Sincerely appreciate multiple perspectives.

Especially that I disagree with in both content and process. Occam's Razor always applies. It isn't conjecture that the bike has been objectively horrible except for outright power and quickness to change line. All evidence says it still is. Cal was heroic. Jorge was wise, but got stumped by Covid. Watch what Cal says about the handling of the Aprilia, unless he opts for bicycles, family and California after all.

The criticism of Cal's media style is well established on this site. I never say it is wise, but nor do I react. I like it relative to cheesy polished or outright avoidant. He is usually proven to be accurate/warranted re what he specifically refers to. Unlike, say, Iannone last year. Who was a ****.

It may have even been wise for Cal, who I had tipped as most likely to have a career ending crash in 2020. Now he won't need to over push, can see ahead, and got on a bike that may have reliability ironed AND some Suzuki like grunt.

I see a win (no, not a race win. Pol either. Dovi? Not sure, he just got passed by two Yamahas and a Suzuki may slip through too while he is in the marbles. Maybe Jack arrives now with him?).

BT Sport's Twitter just posted a brief interview w Cal, it is a good watch. Additional point in it, "Luccio wants to keep me and Taka isn't signed yet" so "we can see how that goes." I think he is headed to Aprilia and that things in his team are really positive around him.

Appreciating your posts Pday. Enjoy Jerez!

;)

I enjoy Crutchlow's humor and his incisive and blunt remarks about the bike he's riding as well as other topics. It's only when he starts talking about himself that I feel like I'm gonna barf. His low self esteem becomes apparant for all to see.

The difference between heroism and self-destuctiveness is a fuzzy, grey area. Crutchlow was a crasher before he ever climbed aboard the RC213V. He's averaged 5 DNFs a season for his entire career. That doesn't count DNSs due to injuries. Sure, not all retirements were his responsibility, but if one wants to start talking about visitors to the gravel trap Crutchlow has tasted the beach a lot during his career.

Not saying that the RC213V is the best bike on the grid. Don't believe "best bike" can ever be confirmed except in the imagination. Just saying that it's possible that the RC213V allows Marquez to exploit his true potential.

This off-season has gone on long enough. Sunday may well feel a bit like Christmas this year. Please let the barely controlled chaos begin.

"Don't believe "best bike" can ever be confirmed except in the imagination."

How would you make an argument that the Honda NSR500 was not the best bike on the grid in 1997?

  • 15/15 wins;
  • 36/45 podiums (39/45 if we count the NSR500V variant);
  • Ridden by 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th (and 5th if we include the NSR500V) place riders in the championship.

This subject has been debated ad infinitum. Only way is the same rider riding all bikes at the same time under the same conditions. Impossible. The conundrum is personal truth or perspective vs Truth. Who can say what that is?

In fact even the aformentioned scenario is not even accurate. The best bike for whom? Every rider would have to ride every bike all at the same time under the same conditions in order to equally evaluate all bikes. Who does this? God?

Otherwise assumptions have to be made...

Uh oh!

We are perilously close to reductionist "there is no reality," or "all opinions are equally valid" sort of territory. Philosophers fiddling around with "reality" and "truth" get to things like "if the vast majority of us can share what we have best surmised and find the commonality, it is no longer just subjectivity." And they are talking about much trickier business.

Be thankful there isn't a treatise here w links. No, wait, be thankful that JEREZ is here!

We always have available to us which bikes are how good, period. Sometimes it is clear and nearly inarguable. Others less so. There can also be a sub consideration of for whom which bike is best, yes. This does not detract from the former, rather it adds richness and depth and complexity. The former remains, the latter is addendum, nuance. Yet again, 67% will agree re the conventional take, much more when we have a 1997 or 2003 Honda sort of situation. Then there are outliers. If someone has a legitimate basis that supports "exceptions eliminate the general rule," I am interested.

Right now we have two basic types of bike that may be better suited to one particular riding style and preference. And, the trickier matter of the Ducati.

It isn't rocket surgery, and can still largely be accounted for. If we were to get 50 people with basically sufficient knowledge and minimized errant processes, we would see a sufficiently clear picture. Some folks would need more hsnd holding and support in minimizing errant processes than others.

It changes too. The Yamaha and Aprilia are a moving target now (much more than the usual more incremental fluctuations).

This is charted territory

One need not read what philosophers have to say about this so-called "reality" that we engage in. One could take a gander at what the "father of quantum theory" had to say after a lifetime of studying what he called "the most clear headed of sciences". And you will find your quote there, my friend. The fundamentals of the material world that we are a part of is shrouded in mystery and uncertainty, which is what makes it so interesting.

"Best" is in it's own way a broad and vague term. One must first define what "best" means. It seems so simple, but it is not. Best at what? Winning races? Which tracks? Winning a championship? If every rider on the grid were able to ride every bike at every track on the calender under the same conditions with different crews, would they all agree on which bike they consider to be the best? Fortunately, there are too many variables or otherwise life would be very boring.

This is why there is a championship with points awarded for placements at the end of a race. It creates a certainty out of all the variables. Simple math cannot be argued with. But the word "best" is not simple.