One of the more notable paddock visitors at the Grand Prix at Barcelona was former MotoGP hero Sete Gibernau. Hardly surprising, as the Barcelona circuit is right in Gibernau's backyard, and the Spaniard still has a lot of friends in the paddock. What was more interesting was the length of time Gibernau spent talking to engineers and team managers. The Spaniard even dropped a couple of casual hints that he could possibly be interested in getting back into MotoGP in some capacity, should the opportunity arise.
It seems that behind these vague allusions, an awful lot of hard lobbying was going on. Ducati has announced that Sete Gibernau will be testing the Ducati at Mugello from June 17th to 19th, alongside regular test rider Vito Guareschi. It is unclear whether Gibernau will be working on next year's GP9 bike, or if he will be testing improvements to the 2008 Ducati GP8.
It is not entirely unthinkable that Gibernau's test is a precursor to more. With Marco Melandri having such a disastrous year aboard the factory Ducati, the Marlboro Ducati team is desperately searching around for solutions. While improving the bike is one solution, another could be the more radical step of having Gibernau step in to take Melandri's place at some point during the year. With Melandri looking increasingly unlikely to sit out the 2nd year of his 2 year contract with Ducati, and what's worse, looking less and less comfortable or happy aboard the current bike, the Italian may choose (either of his own volition or not) to quit before the season's end. If Melandri were to leave, Ducati would need a replacement, and Gibernau could conceivably be an excellent choice, having already ridden for the team for a year in 2006. The irony of the situation would not be lost on Gibernau, as it was Casey Stoner who took Gibernau's ride at Ducati, after putting Gibernau into the gravel at Estoril.
Any speculation about Gibernau replacing Melandri remains premature, however. First, the Spaniard will have to demonstrate that he can get on better with the current bike than Marco Melandri. As both Sylvain Guintoli and Toni Elias have demonstrated, that is on easy feat.