Ever since news broke that Casey Stoner would miss three MotoGP rounds to recover from the mystery illness which has laid the Australian low, rumors that the move has raised the ire of both Marlboro and Ducati have raged around the paddock and the internet. Ducati have publicly expressed their support for Stoner, professing their understanding of his situation, and doing their best to suppress any impression of dissent within their ranks, at least in public.
While Ducati have publicly stood by their rider, little has been heard from Marlboro, the people who pay Stoner's wages. Until now, that is: Maurizio Arrivabene, the most senior figure inside Philip Morris' motorsports sponsoring arm expressed his irritation at Stoner's decision. Speaking at the Singapore F1 Grand Prix - Arrivabene is also responsible for the Marlboro sponsorship of the Ferrari F1 team - the Marlboro boss was damning of Stoner's absence. According to Italian media company Sportmediaset, Arrivabene feels an apolology is in order: "I hope Stoner has the decency to apologize to the team in Portugal," Arrivabene said.
Marlboro have taken Stoner's absence very badly, Sportmediaset is reporting. To quote the Italian website, "there are many of Ducati's Borgo Panigale employees who wouldn't stay at home with a stomach ache, especially in times of economic crisis."
Marlboro's discontent does not mean that Stoner would be dropped by the team. Arrivabene reaffirmed that the Australian would be riding for Ducati again in 2010. And despite the rumors flying in the Italian media, the Marlboro boss also took the opportunity to deny that any deal had been reached with Valentino Rossi to make the switch to Ducati. Rossi has recently dropped hints that he could be amenable to a Ducati approach, but so far, contact has been restricted to mutual expressions of admiration, and nothing more.