It’s sounding increasingly like Ducati’s MotoGP management will be forced to make an important decision in the coming weeks, after a source close to Ducati confirmed to The Race that there exists the option contractually to swap 2022 championship contender Enea Bastianini with Sunday’s German Grand Prix race winner Jorge Martin in the factory squad for next season.
That’s something that has been hinted at for some time now, with Ducati boss Paolo Ciabatti suggesting a few weeks ago that a big decision would have to be made over the coming five-week summer break – and that that decision was specifically being delayed by Bastianini’s injury.
It was suggested again by Martin as he went into this weekend’s race at the Sachsenring.
“I don’t think about it a lot,” the Pramac Ducati rider told MotoGP.com. “I hear something about Ducati, that they need to decide something, I don’t know exactly what they need to decide. Maybe if I have a possibility to go the factory team, would be great.
“But it’s not a thing that I’m thinking of now. I feel great with Pramac, I have a nice bike. It’s the same as the factory team. I feel like it’s no big change if we move.”
However, that prospect is something that’s likely to have been pushed to the very top of Ducati’s to-do list in the coming weeks thanks to the Spaniard’s impressive performances at the German track, Martin taking victory from factory rider and reigning world champion Pecco Bagnaia in both the sprint and the feature race.
And, with Bastianini still recuperating from the shoulder injuries he sustained at the opening round of the championship in Portimao back in March when he was taken out by fellow Ducati racer Luca Marini, it’s clear that last year’s third-place finisher is feeling like he’s on something of a back foot after only completing two full race weekends out of seven so far this year.
“I’m confident…,” he hesitated to reply when asked the question at the Sachsenring if he was certain he would be in factory red next year given the rumours floating around. “Yes. Yeah I’m confident. But, uhhh… yes.”
Bastianini has been fighting towards the bottom of the top 10 since his return as he continues to regain fitness. While that is a limitation, at the Sachsenring he emphasised that the bigger issue was the lack of experience with the Ducati GP23 given his long absence, and repeatedly stressed he “needs more time”.
Squaring off against Bastianini in the fight for the factory bike during the 2022 season and going into this year somewhat miffed at failing to win promotion against the four-time MotoGP race winner, Martin has, to his credit, used that frustration positively, coming out of the blocks this season looking stronger than ever before and able to back up his undeniable speed with a newfound consistency and maturity on the bike.
And while Bastianini’s woes so far this season might not be in any way of his own making, it’s nonetheless inarguable that Martin has made a more significant impact on this year’s championship to date.
Now twice a sprint race winner and a podium finisher in the previous three rounds of the championship, it means he leaves Germany for the Netherlands sitting second in the overall standings and trailing Bagnaia by only 16 points – while the injury-struck Bastianini has only 16 points to his name overall.
One thing that has been answered unequivocally by Martin’s Sachsenring successes, however – and which will maybe come as a relief to Ducati management – is any talk of him being lured away by another manufacturer.
Rumour had suggested earlier this season that he had been close to a Yamaha deal to replace Franco Morbidelli.
“I’m happy where I am,” he laughed when asked if he could be tempted away from Ducati by a factory offer from a Japanese team. “I’m happy where I am and I hope to stay here – for the moment.”