It is no secret that Italian Andrea Dovizioso is fast, the 2004 125cc World Champion has three runners up medals and one third-placed medal in the MotoGP standings.
Ducati want to win their first MotoGP class title since Casey Stoner in 2007, this is absolutely no secret. They have poured money into riders over the years in the hope of ‘fixing’ their bike and winning the title. The most famous examples of this are Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, both riders were signed to Ducati with multi-million contracts in 2011 and 2017 respectively. Valentino Rossi was paid that well, he made himself onto the Forbes list for 2012 in their ‘100 highest-paid athletes of the year’ section ranking 20th. For Valentino Rossi, this was an absolute disaster and very nearly ended his career before his Yamaha return in 2013.
Ducati decided to recoup their losses and hire Italian Andrea Dovizioso from the Tech3 Yamaha squad on a much lower wage with the goal of building back up from the ashes. This move has proven to be incredibly successful with Dovizioso paying off his debts in 2014 with two podiums, however, not a race win. The Italian had to wait until Malaysia 2016 for his second premier class win since Donington 2011 on the Repsol Honda. In a tale of twisted fate, Dovizioso was not the man to give Ducati their first win since Phillip Island 2010 with Casey Stoner, this went to his teammate Andrea Iannone who won his only premier class race at the Red Bull Ring earlier that year.
2017 was the year that Dovizioso really started to shine, the problem for Ducati was that this was also the year they put all their eggs into one basket, the factory signed Jorge Lorenzo on a multi-million euro contract with the aim of winning the elusive MotoGP title. This didn’t go to plan in 2017 with Andrea Dovizioso having his best chance at the title yet, taking the fight to the end of the season at Valencia where Marc Marquez took the crown following a DNF from Dovizioso, handing Marquez the title. Jorge Lorenzo ended the season in seventh place overall.
2018 Dovizioso once again went out of his way to prove himself to the Bologna factory taking four wins and nine podiums, yet still could not overcome Marc Marquez who took nine wins and fourteen podiums with Dovizioso’s Ducati teammate taking three wins before missing four races due to injury, Dovizioso would yet again finish as the MotoGP runner up with Ducati failing with Lorenzo who moved to Repsol Honda.
2019 was a tale of the same story, a season dominated by Marc Marquez who took twelve wins and eighteen podiums out of nineteen races, Dovizioso’s lack of consistency compared to Marquez meant he could not come close to Marquez who broke a new points record with a worst result of second place. Dovizioso’s consistency as a whole is not a problem, his worst result was seventh place and only finished out of the top five twice taking two wins and nine podiums on the way.
This brings us to the shortened 2020 season, the main issue is that Dovizioso has well and truly solidified himself as a ‘number two man’ at Ducati, he has the tools to win the title but cannot do this, leaving Ducati to look at other options, hiring Jack Miller for 2021.
Dovizioso was deep in discussions with Ducati before the team and manufacturer hit a stalemate in regards to salary, the manufacturer wants to pay Dovizioso less money, however, Dovizioso feels he is worth more than the figure offered. It has been majorly rumoured that the Italian wants to take a sabbatical for one year and return in 2022, however, as we all know, once you leave the MotoGP paddock, it is nearly impossible to make your way back in, with nearly all of the grid slots taken for 2021, if he does not sign for Ducati, he may have costed himself his career.
So far this season Dovizioso took third place in the first race at Jerez, however, was out-qualified by the Pramac Ducati duo at Andalucia, the pair also ran higher than him in the race before Miller crashed out and Bagnaia suffered a mechanical issue in second place, Dovizioso ended the race in sixth place.
Bagnaia’s performance has opened some eyes in the Bologna factory, the ex-Moto2 World Champion has proven in Moto2 and Moto3 that he can win races and even win a title in the intermediate class. If he can keep these performances up, Ducati may look to sign him as he will accept their lower salary offer, the same way Dovizioso replaced Rossi in 2013 for a lower salary.
Bagnaia has youth on his side also, he is only 23 years old with a full career ahead of him, if coached by Ducati correctly he has the potential to be their future champion, whereas Dovizioso is 34 years old and coming to the end of his career, with only a few years left, is it worth Ducati taking a chance and paying Dovizioso more to finish second yet again, or is it worth the factory putting a bet on a younger rider?
We also cannot forget Scott Redding in World SBK, the rider currently at the time of writing holds the championship lead with multiple podiums and two race wins, the Englishman has 7 years experience in MotoGP and even rode for Pramac Ducati. The Englishman has said the only way he would return to MotoGP is with the Ducati factory team, if he wins the title, he may be awarded this ride.
Featured images – www.motogp.com