Defending MotoGP champion Pecco Bagnaia's quest for a premier-class 'three-peat' in 2024 is facing the added complication of his employer Ducati's restrictive 'Rank A' status under the series' new concession system.
This complication, admittedly, is a much smaller one for Bagnaia than the arrival of Marc Marquez within the Ducati camp or the threat of Jorge Martin continuing his late-season form from 2023 - but 'Rank A' still represents a noticeable curbing of Ducati's allowances, as an effort to compensate for the advantages it enjoys in having eight full-time bikes on the grid.
Ducati has gone from a three-wildcard allowance for its test rider Michele Pirro (or somebody like Alvaro Bautista) to zero, and has had 15 Michelin tyre sets taken out of its full-season testing allocation.
And its 'Rank A' status comes amid there being no 'Rank B' teams, with nearest rivals KTM and Aprilia both qualifying as 'Rank C' and Japanese manufacturers Yamaha and Honda getting the full gamut of concession privileges within 'Rank D'.
Ducati had to sign up for this exact version of the system - it couldn't be forced through without its approval - and it did so, it says, for the good of the championship.
But that doesn't mean its leading figures haven't - and won't continue to - grumbled about specific details.
Asked by The Race about the new concession system, Bagnaia said during Ducati's 2024 launch: "For sure having more tests, they [Honda and Yamaha] start as soon as Malaysia with two more days or three more days [by running with race riders at the shakedown]. Then they can test somewhere, anywhere.
"So I think it will be a big step for them. It's true that they need it.
"But from my point of view, the concessions for Ducati didn't have to change.
"For me, for Ducati it had to be the same [as before] - not to reduce the days of testing, the number of tyres, or the wildcards.
"I didn't understand it. Because the concessions for others are huge, if you consider Honda or Yamaha."
Luckily for Bagnaia and Ducati, there is a mechanism that would allow it to move down the concession rankings table in-season in 2024.
Unluckily for Bagnaia and Ducati, given the Italian manufacturer's roster, it is a mechanism that is significantly unlikely to come into play.
The new system, approved late last year, has been specifically designed to build in a certain fluidity to concession status.
Ducati's current 'Rank A' status is based on its overwhelming performance over the course of 2023.
More specifically, that performance, as for every other manufacturer, is measured by scoring in the manufacturers' championship. There, points for each of the brands are allotted based on the highest-placed representative in every sprint and in every race.
So with Ducati having not just the best bike but eight of them to cover its bases in case its leading riders DNF, it has led to it having some truly gaudy numbers.
For the purposes of the concession system, those gaudy totals are converted into percentages of how many points were scored relative to the maximum points available. Ducati scored 96% of the available points last year.
But it, and every other manufacturer, will have its status recalculated during mid-season.
When MotoGP heads into its summer break after round 11 of 22 at the Sachsenring in Germany, the series will pull together a new points table - which will combine scoring in the latter half of 2023 (from the 2023 summer break onwards) and the first half of 2024 into a 23-round 'pseudo-season'.
As a pure hypothetical, if Ducati scores zero points over the course of this 11-round stretch to begin 2024 - let's say each of its bikes are disqualified before the start every time for various random reasons - it will drop from 'Rank A' to 'Rank C'.
Of course, that isn't realistic. But to go into 'Rank B' Ducati needs to score 298 points or fewer over that same stretch, which does sound a lot less far-fetched.
But it would still be a huge Ducati climbdown compared to recent form - and would suggest it suddenly has much bigger problems than being 'Rank A'.
WHAT IT WOULD TAKE
Ducati needs to have less than 85% of the total available points in the manufacturers' championship to be 'Rank B'. Last year, again, it scored 96% - and its rate of scoring was pretty consistent before and after the summer break.
So to get to the required number between summer of 2023 and summer of 2024, Ducati would have to score just 73.2% of the points available between the Qatar opener and the German GP.
That's... still a lot. For most, that would still equate to a really good season.
But it would mean an average of 27 points per round, which means that the leading Ducati, on average, would be finishing something like second in every grand prix and third in every sprint.
It is super unlikely. Ducati won all but three grands prix last year and all but three sprints.
It only scored fewer than 27 points for the weekend twice in 20 attempts last year - at Barcelona, where remarkably many of the Desmosedicis were either taken out or hobbled in opening-lap crashes, and at Phillip Island, where no sprint had taken place.
In 2022, it scored 89.6% of the available manufacturer points. In 2021, 79.3%. In 2020, 63.1% - so that's below the magic number, but that Desmosedici was not this Desmosedici and it didn't have an eight-bike armada.
If Ducati does somehow get to 'Rank B' by mid-season, it will get 10 extra sets of tyres and will be able to book three wildcard appearances for Pirro. Ducati's long-time test rider is currently slated to make no MotoGP starts in a season for the first time since 2012, though chances are, knowing modern MotoGP, he'll be rocking up somewhere as an injury stand-in at some point.
Truthfully, the nearest realistic point at which Ducati might cede its 'Rank A' status is almost certainly the end of 2024. But that's probably how MotoGP and everyone else would prefer it, anyway.
WHAT OTHER CHANGES ARE ON THE CARDS
After 11 races...
KTM will move down to Rank D if it scores 73 points or fewer, and will move up to Rank B if it scores 284 points or more.
Aprilia will move down to Rank D if it scores 88 points or fewer, and will move up to Rank B if it scores 299 points or more.
Yamaha will move up to Rank C if it scores 180 points or more. It can also theoretically go straight to Rank B, but that scenario is too mathematically ridiculous to contemplate.
Honda will move up to Rank C if it scores 198 points or more.
All of the calculations in the article presuppose that 11 grands prix and 11 sprints will take place and award full points before the 2024 summer break. Any cancellations would change the maths when it comes to the share of the total points available.