Desmo Dovi is no more. The eight-year partnership between Andrea Dovizioso and Ducati Corse will come to an end when the flag falls after the last race of the 2020 MotoGP season.
The news was made official by Dovizioso's manager Simone Battistella, after a final meeting with Ducati management to try to agree terms. Battistella told broadcaster Sky Italia that they had been unable to find common ground to continue.
"We have told Ducati that Andrea does not intend to continue for the next years, that he now only wants to concentrate on the next races, but that the conditions to continue together don't exist," Battistella said. "He won't be leaving MotoGP, however, even if there are no negotiations currently happening with other teams. This has been a conclusion reached over the last period. Andrea feels much more calm now that he has taken this decision."
Shortly after the interview was broadcast, Ducati issued a statement by Ducati Corse Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti via its social media channels. "We met Simone this morning here at Red Bull Ring, and realized that unfortunately, there are not the conditions to continue our relationship with Dovi beyond the end of the current contract," the statement read. "Ducati and Andrea will now fully concentrate on the remainder of the 2020 season, starting from tomorrow's Austrian GP, with the common goal to add more wins to the 13 first places already achieved together, and fight for the title until the end of the championship."
The decision was the now seemingly inevitable outcome of the long deterioration of the relationship between Dovizioso and Ducati – and especially Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna – over the past couple of years. Dall'Igna felt that Dovizioso needed to push harder and get more out of the Desmosedici. Dovizioso felt that Dall'Igna was focusing solely on creating more horsepower, and fixing the last of the turning issues which have dogged the Ducati for 15 years or more, at least since the switch to the 800cc formula in 2007.
Things went downhill more quickly in the past couple of years, with Dovizioso and Dall'Igna no longer on speaking terms outside of brief work meetings. Dall'Igna believed Ducati had a bike to win the championship, but not the rider – a pattern which the signing of Jorge Lorenzo fits neatly into. Dovizioso believed he could be champion if it were not for Ducati's failure to give him the last piece of the puzzle, a bike which turned better, to help him win the title.
The final stumbling block appears to have been financial. Ducati had asked Dovizioso to take a pay cut for 2021, with reports that he was also being asked to accept a pay cut for the 2020 season as well, due to the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, Dovizioso was not so inclined: the Italian had finished as runner up to a dominant Marc Márquez for the last three seasons, racked up 13 victories for Ducati, and been absolutely instrumental in helping to turn around Ducati's fortunes since his arrival in 2013, together with Gigi Dall'Igna.
What happens next for Andrea Dovizioso? Paddock consensus is that he will join Aleix Espargaro at Aprilia. That makes a lot of sense from numerous perspectives. Aprilia want an Italian rider to enhance their status as an Italian brand. With the RS-GP now finally starting to look competitive, Aprilia need an experienced development rider, which Dovizioso unquestionably is. Aprilia are more desperate than Ducati for success, and so potentially have deeper pockets, at least in the short term.
It would also be a small piece of revenge for the Italian factory. At the end of 2013, Ducati poached then Aprilia Racing director Gigi Dall'Igna to lead their racing program. Eight years' later, Aprilia return the favor by tempting Andrea Dovizioso away from Ducati to help lead the development of the RS-GP.
If Dovizioso goes to Aprilia, that would leave Cal Crutchlow without a seat in MotoGP. That would be an issue for British broadcaster BT Sport, who want a British rider in the premier class, but there are no real candidates to ascend to MotoGP, nor attractive seats available.
In theory, Crutchlow could return to Ducati, but Ducati have shown no interest in seeing the British rider return. The more plausible explanation is that Ducati promote Pecco Bagnaia from the satellite Pramac squad, as they have done with Jack Miller. Ducati owns the contracts of the Pramac Ducati riders, and Pramac is very much the Ducati junior team, where they prepare talent for ascension into the factory squad.
If Bagnaia is promoted to the factory team, that would leave space in the Pramac squad for some experimentation by Ducati. Enea Bastianini's name has been mentioned a lot recently, as the Italian has impressed in Moto2. Bastianini could be one rider to be promoted to MotoGP in 2021. Luca Marini is another name which has been doing the rounds, the Sky VR46 rider having made a big step forward in the past couple of seasons.
Johann Zarco is another alternative, though the Frenchman is more likely to be placed in Pramac than in the factory squad. What Ducati are after is a rider to win a championship: Zarco has shown he can be competitive and score podiums on the Ducati, but there are lingering doubts that he can cope with the pressure of a factory team, after what happened in 2019 with the factory KTM squad.
Rumors continue to circulate about a possible return to Ducati by Jorge Lorenzo. It is hard to assess how much substance there is to the rumors. Ducati have politely talked around the rumors, without addressing them directly, and Jorge Lorenzo has gone quiet in recent weeks. But it is a popular proposal among pundits, as it generates a lot of debate and engagement.
Lorenzo is beloved by Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna, but he faces opposition from Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali. It was Domenicali's opposition that eventually forced Lorenzo out at the end of 2018.
A decision on Ducati's future line up will follow in a month or so, once Ducati have had a chance to digest the news that they have lost Dovizioso, and to weigh their options. "We will take some time to make some considerations, and in the next weeks, we will inform everybody," Davide Tardozzi told Simon Crafar on the MotoGP.com broadcast.
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