Marco Melandri's long-term future at Ducati is almost entirely certain, in that he neither has, nor wants, a future with the Italian manufacturer. But so dire has Melandri's predicament at Ducati become that the Bologna factory is openly speculating on a premature departure from the team by Macio.
However, just because Melandri is not going to be a long-term fixture at Ducati doesn't mean that he is free to leave whenever he pleases. Ducati boss Livio Suppo told the Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport that Melandri will remain with the team until at least the Brno MotoGP round in mid-August. That means that Melandri will ride at both the German GP at the Sachsenring and the US GP at Laguna Seca in California.
There had been some speculation that Melandri would be released directly after Assen, and with Kawasaki's John Hopkins ruled out of at least the Sachsenring race, and probably the Laguna Seca round as well, it was believed that Melandri could switch directly to Kawasaki, filling in for Hopper until he returns from injury. Such a deal would also mean that Melandri would be offered a contract with Kawasaki for 2009 as well, and Kawasaki could run a third bike for the rest of the year once Hopper did make his return.
That deal now looks to be off. Whether this means Melandri will sit out the rest of the season after Laguna Seca, with Sete Gibernau expected to take his place on the factory Ducati, remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure. Marco Melandri's personal Via Dolorosa is very nearly at an end.