until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


What Ducati's likely Marquez/Martin solutions are

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

It’s looking increasingly likely that Ducati racing boss Gigi Dall'Igna will have to make the toughest of choices in the coming weeks between current factory racer Enea Bastianini, last year’s runner-up and current points leader Jorge Martin, and six-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez to partner world champion Pecco Bagnaia at the factory team next year.

It’s a decision that’s complicated even further by potentially not knowing how many bikes Ducati is going to have on the grid next season, as current top tier satellite squad Pramac continues to deliberate over an offer from rival factory Yamaha to defect, an option that paddock sources suggest is close to being done.

As a result, Ducati has a hard choice ahead, one that risks alienating some of its current line-up as it tries to retain the best possible group going forward.

And while we might not be party to the decision-making process within the firm, we can at the very least speculate what options Dall'Igna is being presented with - and weigh up the pros and cons.

Option 1: Martin to factory, Marquez to Gresini or Pramac, Bastianini to Aprilia

Promoting Martin to the dream job he so desperately wants - at the expense of Bastianini - would certainly appease Martin's desire for a factory team surrounding him.

He’d get a factory bike, Ducati would have two superstars in its team, and everything would look fiercely competitive going forward.

It also avoids the potential for some embarrassment next season, too, should Martin retain his current run of form. Few at Ducati would want to see the number one plate on the front of a satellite bike or, even worse, a rival manufacturer’s machine.

And while it would mean Bastianini being discarded, there’s bound to be less worry about him on an Aprilia than there would be if Martin made that switch.

Aprilia is believed to be desperate to pick up whichever of Bastianini or Martin that Ducati doesn't sign or can't keep. It's an easy fit - but the combination of Bastianini and the RS-GP won’t keep Dall’Igna awake the way that Martin on one would.

It also provides something to try to keep Pramac on side, too: the prospect of offering to place Marquez into its squad.

Marquez is looking very content at the family-run Gresini team right now, and it’s likely factory-spec machinery in a private team would be enough to keep him onboard. If Pramac stays with Ducati, then it's guaranteed first refusal on those bikes.

Option 2: Marquez to factory, Bastianini to Gresini or Pramac, Martin to Aprilia or KTM

It seems right now that there are two camps within Ducati - those who want to see a red factory bike winning, and those (headed by Dall’Igna) who simply want to see the Desmosedici on top, regardless of which team’s machine is winning.

Should faction one get its way, it might mean that the other option is to simply sign up Marquez, move him from Gresini, and try to take him to eight premier class titles and 10 in grand prix motorcycle racing - something that’s entirely possible given how exceptionally fast he’s been so far on a year-old bike that’s universally accepted to be quite a bit slower than the latest factory machines.

However, doing that would likely push Martin out of Ducati's ranks - sending him straight to either Aprilia or to KTM, which has refused to deny recent rumours suggesting it would be open to getting its hands on a rider who would return as something of a prodigal son, given KTM's part in his rise up the ranks towards MotoGP before he picked Ducati when it came to graduating from Moto2.

It would also likely help hasten Pramac’s decision to head to Yamaha, although the spare factory bikes would at least benefit Bastianini - who would probably be able to return to his old squad Gresini on the latest machinery.

Option 3: Bastianini to factory, Martin to Pramac, Marquez to Gresini

The status quo option, keeping things as they are, would probably be the least offensive to Ducati’s current superstar Bagnaia, who would retain his number one status within the factory garage as well as leading bike development going forward.

Given his two titles in a row, it’s fairly easy to see why Ducati would like that option - but with Bagnaia’s start to 2024 so far somewhat faltering, it could be that Ducati is interested in hedging its bets instead and bringing in another title contender, something that retaining Bastianini arguably wouldn’t do.

The problem is, it would take a change of tune for that decision to enable Ducati to retain Martin as well - given that he has repeatedly stated that he’ll settle for nothing less than a factory team promotion, even despite his current successes at Pramac.

It is a question not just of machinery but of the considerable factory resources that come with a job at the manufacturer’s main team.

In the modern era of MotoGP it has been the key to title success, something that Martin is desperately aware of.

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