No one expected Andrea Dovizioso to extend his unsuccessful MotoGP comeback into 2023, and he’s now brought his (second) exit forward by announcing he will retire for good after the early September Misano race.
His return with Yamaha’s satellite team has not added any success to the often-superb main part of his MotoGP career, in which he led Ducati back into championship contention in a way the likes of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo could not.
Last month, Valentin Khorounzhiy assessed Dovizioso’s Yamaha stint in-depth. Here’s another chance to read it, in updated form, in light of today’s announcement.
The verdict is out on Andrea Dovizioso’s ‘second’ MotoGP career. There was a widely acknowledged inevitability that the Italian would sign off from the premier-class after the next nine races, and considering the previous 15 have yielded a meagre 22 points, it will take something extraordinary to change the narrative on Dovi’s RNF Yamaha stint. He’s now revealed it will actually be just three more races, and he’ll call it a day after a home farewell at Misano in September.
It hasn’t worked out. Really hasn’t. Dovizioso has been the first to acknowledge that. At the Sachsenring, when asked about his strategy for the race, he said: “During this year, every race has been a nightmare for me. I was surviving.
“It’s not about making strategy and deciding something – because I don’t have the speed in my control.
“And when you are behind [other bikes] now, the MotoGP really becomes bad about that, it affects a lot your way to ride, the performance of the tyre, especially the front.”
“This year has been very bad, very bad for me,” he acknowledged after Assen a week later. “Unfortunately. But this is the reality. We keep fighting.”
His predecessor in the ‘veteran satellite Yamaha rider role’, Valentino Rossi, had a bad 2021. Dovizioso’s 2022 is worse still – he has 10 points after 11 races, with Rossi having scored double that at the same point last year.
It is a more-than-unusual predicament for somebody who has until now put up triple-digit points with ease in his every full-time season of grand prix racing but one – his 2002 125cc debut campaign (pictured below, with Dovi behind Youichi Ui).
“Not being competitive is a completely different story to my career,” Dovizioso acknowledged in a recent MotoGP.com interview. “That is the difficult thing.
“To not be there, it’s the first time for me. It’s difficult to manage, and especially practice by practice, race by race, it becomes more the reality.”
That same interview contained other Dovizioso answers that were widely taken as confirmation of his impending retirement. But, truthfully, his position doesn’t seem to have really changed – he’s not competitive, and as long as he’s not competitive he won’t bother trying to get himself on the 2023 grid. The only difference is that now that grid is more or less full.
Dovizioso finds himself in the Rossi position of last year. He’s a few years younger and a fair few titles short, but he’s also set to end his MotoGP career on something of a sour note, an obvious, glaring low point on the CV.
So, does that mean it wasn’t worth it to return? Well, in hindsight, maybe – the financial factor aside, Dovizioso would’ve probably got more out of spending another year motocrossing at his leisure than putting himself through MotoGP weekend after MotoGP weekend of “always the same story”, as he put it.
But he can’t have known for sure. And in that sense, it was worth finding out.
That’s what makes it different to Rossi’s situation. Dovizioso’s 2020 Ducati departure was a surprise, and he’d still finished fourth in the championship after the split was announced. And that fourth place followed three consecutive runner-up finishes.
MotoGP was going away from him – that much was clear – but a 2020 retirement after consistent frontrunning form would’ve inevitably raised the question over whether he’d left a win or two on the table, whether he was still fast enough to make his title dream happen on a different machine.
And the Yamaha was ideal for that role, given Dovizioso looked so handy on it back in 2012 before beginning his long Ducati journey.
Dovizioso acknowledged in discussing the move that it was irresistible but “risky”. He was clearly right on the latter point, because it hasn’t worked out in the least.
Despite having what he describes as a “completely opposite” riding style to Franco Morbidelli, he’s been getting very similar results – unable to make the most of fresh tyres in qualifying, stuck in traffic in races – and has been left convinced that only Fabio Quartararo can give the current Yamaha M1 what it needs.
Whether that theory is correct is not so important here – what is important is that whoever else can crack that puzzle, Dovi himself is increasingly convinced it’s not him. And it’s probably not just the M1, else he would’ve at least entertained pursuing other opportunities.
“MotoGP changed. The bike changed. The competitors changed. The way you have to ride the bike is different. There are a lot of big and small reasons – and if you put it all together, it happens what I’m living now.”
One of the big reasons is clearly the new Michelin rear introduced in 2020 that severely blunted Dovizioso’s peak speed. The other – well, it may well be age. He is a 36-year-old in a series dominated by riders in their 20s.
So maybe it was never going to work out. But Dovizioso – whose time in MotoGP has painted him as one of the most introspective and flat-out interesting characters of this past premier-class era – deserved the chance to find out.
And when his farewell race at Misano comes and goes, he will walk away from the premier-class with – very likely – no extra silverware in his trophy cabinet, but no lingering ‘what if’ either.
There’s value in closure.