The next piece of the 2021 rider puzzle has just fallen into place. After strong rumours over the weekend, as well as tacit confirmation from team boss Davide Tardozzi, Ducati have confirmed that Jack Miller will join the factory Ducati team for the 2021 MotoGP season, with an option to extend the contract into 2022.
The move is a logical one on the part of Ducati. Ducati have long used Pramac as a team for nurturing talent and preparing them to go into the factory squad, as they have indeed done with Danilo Petrucci. Miller had shown significant progress since arriving at Pramac in 2018, finishing the 2019 season with five podiums.
Ducati made its confidence in Miller clear throughout 2018 and 2019, entrusting the Australian to test new parts before moving them up to the factory squad. It was Miller who first tested Ducati's holeshot device, at Motegi in 2018, and also Ducati's "shapeshifter", which squats the suspension on the straight, at Buriram in 2019.
Who Miller will replace is not settled yet, though the odds heavily favor this being a sign that Ducati is moving on from Danilo Petrucci. Despite Petrucci's victory at Mugello last year, the Italian suffered a slump in the second half of 2019, with Ducati losing confidence in him by the end of the year. Petrucci came very close to being moved back to the Avintia squad after the final race of 2019 in Valencia, as Ducati sought to accommodate Johann Zarco in the Pramac squad, which would have meant promoting Miller to the factory team and moving Petrucci back to Avintia. Only strong protest from Pramac team boss Paolo Campinoti kept Miller in Pramac for 2020.
Andrea Dovizioso looks likely to stay put in Ducati, although wrangling over the Italian's contract for 2021 is still ongoing. There have been rumors of a move to Aprilia, and of approaches by KTM, but so far, these have looked more like bargaining tactics than serious proposals.
Where Petrucci goes, if he leaves, is far from clear. In a recent interview with Italian website GPOne.com, Petrucci's manager Alberto Vergani said he believes that Petrucci is out of the factory Ducati squad, and that his options are to switch to Aprilia or to move to WorldSBK with Ducati. Much will depend on what happens with Andrea Iannone, and whether the Italian is able to ride in 2021 and retained by Aprilia.
Miller's signing is the sixth to be made before any racing has taken place in 2020. Four of those signings were logical progressions, riders staying put for the foreseeable future. Fabio Quartararo's promotion to the factory Yamaha squad was also widely expected, and a logical next step, the Frenchman having had a stunning debut season with the Petronas Yamaha team. Miller's promotion to the factory team is in the same vein as Quartararo's, a progress through the ranks to the factory team.
Ducati do not seem as certain of Miller as Yamaha were of Quartararo, however. The Frenchman was given a two-year deal in the factory team, while Miller has been given a one-year deal for 2021, with an option to extend for 2022. Ironically, the same offer given to Danilo Petrucci.
Rider line up for 2021:
|Monster Energy Yamaha|
|Maverick Viñales||Yamaha M1||2022|
|Fabio Quartararo||Yamaha M1||2022|
|Marc Márquez||Honda RC213V||2024|
|Alex Rins||Suzuki GSX-RR||2022|
|Joan Mir||Suzuki GSX-RR||2022|
|Jack Miller||Ducati Desmosedici GP21||2021 (option for 2022)|
Press release announcing the deal from Ducati:
Jack Miller to become official rider of the Ducati Team for the 2021 MotoGP season
Ducati Corse is pleased to announce that Jack Miller will be one of the two official Ducati Team riders in the 2021 MotoGP World Championship. The company from Borgo Panigale and the 25-year-old Australian rider have reached an agreement for next season with an option to extend the contract also for 2022.
Miller, who made his MotoGP debut in 2015 at just 20 years old, joined Ducati in 2018 with the Pramac Racing Team, the factory-supported team of the Bologna manufacturer, and finished last season eighth overall in the standings, taking five podiums during the year.
Jack Miller: "First of all I want to thank warmly Paolo Campinoti, Francesco Guidotti and all the Pramac Racing Team for the great support I have received from them in the two and a half years spent together. It is an honour for me to be able to continue my MotoGP career with the Borgo Panigale manufacturer and I would like to thank all the Ducati management, Claudio, Gigi, Paolo and Davide, for having trusted me and given me this incredible opportunity. I look forward to starting riding again this year, and I am ready to fully commit to the responsibility of being an official Ducati rider in 2021."
Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding: "Since he arrived in the Pramac Racing Team, Jack has grown steadily, proving himself one of the fastest and most talented riders in the championship. So we are happy that he has agreed to ride the official Desmosedici GP bike of the Ducati Team next year. We are convinced that Jack has all the right skills to fight continuously for the positions that matter, in every race, starting already this season with the Desmosedici GP20 of the Pramac Racing Team, and taking a further step forward next year thanks to the support of the Ducati Team."