until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Gresini MotoGP struggler looks doomed against in-form alternative

by Simon Patterson
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Since the start of the 2023 MotoGP season there’s been one rider whose place on the grid for next year has looked more fragile than anyone else’s: Gresini Racing’s Fabio Di Giannantonio.

And with a poor weekend at his best track and his likely replacement looking stronger each weekend, it may be that his future is already decided now.

Di Giannantonio had first joined the premier class at the start of last season, a somewhat surprising choice to partner the Moto2 graduate with Enea Bastianini in Gresini’s first year back in MotoGP as a team all of its own (following years as Aprilia’s partner).

A long-time stalwart of the squad in the lower classes, riding for the team in both Moto3 and Moto2, Di Giannantonio’s previous best season had come in 2018 when he was able to fight for the lightweight Moto3 world title before eventually losing out to Jorge Martin.

Stepping up to Moto2, it took a while for him to return to winning ways – but a fortuitously strong start to 2021, just as the team was preparing its new Ducati-backed MotoGP venture, couldn’t have come at a better time for him and it was enough to secure a promotion.

His time in MotoGP didn’t exactly start easily in his first season though. Not only was he joining a newly-reformed satellite team who had spent years working on Ducatis not Aprilias, he was also paired up with a rookie crew chief – something that left him struggling to learn how to ride the Desmosedici.

His only decent result of the whole season came at his home Italian Grand Prix, where he was able to utilise a damp but drying track to take a very impressive pole position.


Getting through the year, things looked better again for 2023 when it emerged that he would partner up with world championship-winning chief engineer Frankie Carchedi, formerly of Joan Mir’s side of the Suzuki garage and one of the many refugees set adrift by its shock MotoGP exit.

Things haven’t looked a whole lot better for Di Giannantonio this year though – or, at least, his fellow Ducati riders haven’t done a lot to help him look very good.

In isolation his results aren’t bad for a second-year MotoGP rider – failing to finish only a single race, he’s been inside the top 10 in half of the six main events so far this year, and, with a consistent haul of points, he currently sits 15th in the championship, well ahead of more than experienced MotoGP competitors like Taka Nakagami, Miguel Oliveira and even Marc Marquez.

But the problem that Di Giannantonio is facing isn’t necessarily one that he’s made for himself, but rather a result of what Ducati’s other seven riders in the class are doing: winning.

His performance relative to the rest was perhaps no more apparent than at Mugello last weekend, where it’s fair to say that Ducati absolutely dominated proceedings at its home race. With the crop so strong that a Ducati 1-2-3-4-5-6 was a genuine possibility, there were only two notable absences out front among its full-timers: Enea Bastianini, still recovering from injury but nonetheless inside the top 10, and Di Giannantonio, well outside the top 10.


Going into the block of three races in three weekends that MotoGP now finds itself in, it’s believed that Di Giannantonio was given something of a cutthroat ultimatum: find your form or prepare to look for a new job in 2024 – and, if that couldn’t materialise at Mugello of all places, his favourite circuit and somewhere where he’s always been fast in the past, it doesn’t exactly look like the Sachsenring or Assen will help turn around his season either.

What makes it all the more difficult for him is that while he’s not performing on the Ducati, his likely replacement is racking up wins and podiums as part of a very healthy-looking Moto2 title challenge.

MarcVDS racer Tony Arbolino has been one of the breakout acts of 2023, finally maturing into a rider able to fully utilise the talent that he’s always possessed – and that’s been reflected in his results to date.

He’s only missed the podium once this year and he’s twice a race winner, leaving him with a 20-point advantage over Pedro Acosta at the top of the standings. Acosta is strong – but Arbolino looks set to at least fight for the championship until the end of the year.

He’s also got strong backing in his corner, managed as he is by paddock legend Carlos Pernat – the man who brought Bastianini to Gresini last year and mentored him to four very impressive victories for the satellite outfit.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Di Giannantonio with the Italian’s performance objectively not improving and its only the relative results of his fellow Ducati riders that really reflects badly upon him right now – but in the world of modern MotoGP, that’s unfortunately still looking increasingly like all that’s needed to endure he’s going to be job-hunting in 2023.

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