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Who will replace Dovizioso at Ducati?

by Simon Patterson
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The shock news that Andrea Dovizioso will walk away from the factory Ducati team at the end of 2020 after eight seasons together has thrown what looked like a largely settled MotoGP rider market into disarray once again.

The door has been blown open to a number of riders who suddenly see the chance to line up in red alongside Jack Miller next season.

But wanting the ride and getting it isn’t the same thing and there’s set to be fierce competition before Ducati finally announces who will join its factory squad for 2021.

We look at who is in the mix and who’s got the best chance of stepping up to the big leagues next year.

Pecco Bagnaia

Francesco Bagnaia

The lead contender for replacing Dovizioso has to be fellow Ducati pilot Pecco Bagnaia, after the young Pramac Racing rider picked exactly the right time to show some form at the opening rounds of the season.

Unfortunately unable to capitalise on his pace after a mechanical failure took him out of Jerez podium contention and injuries now mean he’s sitting out three rounds, he’s nonetheless believed to have done enough to convince Ducati management to put its faith in him.

“He is the most logical one for the job for the minute” :: Jack Miller

After taking his time in his rookie year to come to terms with MotoGP, despite the occasional flash of brilliance, he looks to have turned that around in 2020 by being both strong and consistent, and at only 23 years old he’s a bet for the future for Ducati.

He’s got a supporter within the ranks as well, with current team-mate Miller suggesting today that he’d be more than happy to have Bagnaia alongside him next year too.

“I think the logical choice for me would be Pecco,” said Miller.

“He’s been there, done the junior academy. He’s a young rider, he’s hungry.

“Unfortunately he’s injured at the moment, after he had a great showing in Jerez where unfortunately he had a mechanical problem.

“So if I have to be completely honest, I think he is the most logical one for the job for the minute.

“But as we’ve seen, anything can happen. But thank God I don’t have Gigi [Dall’Igna]’s job!”

Jorge Lorenzo

Jorge Lorenzo wins Austria MotoGP 2018

It’s an outside bet given their somewhat-troubled past together, but it’s hard to argue that seeing Jorge Lorenzo back on a Desmosedici would be anything short of scintillating.

The five-time world champion’s time with Ducati ended badly – but shortly after it announced he was out of a job, he went on a winning streak only ended by the bike spitting him off in Thailand.

Since then, he’s been through the meat grinder at Honda, coming out of the year with nothing to show except a broken back and early retirement.

However, his all-too-brief foray as Yamaha test rider at the start of the 2020 season showed us that he’s both fully fit and still fast, and the rumours linking him to Ducati just won’t go away.

It’s no secret that Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna is a huge fan of Lorenzo from their days together winning 250GP titles for Aprilia, and would welcome him back with open arms.

Could a fairytale reunion be on the cards? Anything can happen right now in MotoGP!

Johann Zarco

Johann Zarco Avintia Ducati Austria MotoGP 2020

Since walking away from KTM halfway through the 2019 season and finding a new home on a factory Ducati contract at third-tier team Avintia, Johann Zarco hasn’t been shy about expressing his intention to fight his way up the ranks at the Italian manufacturer.

The chances of that happening took a big boost last weekend, too, when he demonstrated just how quickly he’s coming to grips with his GP19 machine by taking pole position and third place at the Czech Grand Prix.

Whether it’s enough to repair the damage to his reputation done by walking away from a factory ride mid-season remains to be seen – but memories can be short in MotoGP and speed speaks for itself.

“This news very much opens the rider market. We have one of the best places on the grid open” :: Johann Zarco

Even if he hasn’t done enough for Ducati to trust him right away with one of the red bikes, a promotion for Bagnaia could also spell good news for Zarco by potentially opening the door for either 2021-spec bikes at his current team or a step up to Pramac.

Either way, he’s got to be one of the prime contenders for promotion should Ducati reshuffle its current cohort.

Speaking this afternoon after the Dovizioso news was announced, Zarco may have hinted that he saw his future within Ducati but not necessarily at the factory team by suggesting that Bagnaia might well be the man for the top job.

“For me it’s positive to know that Dovi will not continue because it means I have more chances to stay in MotoGP,” he said.

“Because if I think about a few months earlier, OK I could do the 2020 season with Avintia, but then there was no future for 2021.

“I have no future now, but much more chance than what we could expect.

“This news very much opens the rider market, because now we have one of the best places on the grid – the factory Ducati – that is open.

“I think that a lot of riders want to go there, including Pecco Bagnaia who unfortunately had an injury in Brno in the worst moment for him for the championship, because I think that he can be very competitive.”

Cal Crutchlow

Cal Crutchlow Ducati 2014

Until today, Cal Crutchlow’s deal with Aprilia looked fairly squared away, even if the latest delay in Andrea Iannone’s doping saga means no announcement will be made until at least mid-October.

But does Dovi’s departure from Ducati potentially open one door for Crutchlow in Bologna while closing one down the road in Noale?

With Dovizioso a free agent, Aprilia would be mad if it didn’t at least start a conversation with his management, meaning Crutchlow could be left high and dry.

Would there really be a chance of him finding his way back to Ducati after a messy divorce at the end of 2014?

Contrary to popular belief, he’s still on excellent terms with many of the senior management there.

He’d also probably be amenable to the option of a one-year deal, something that would allow Ducati to hit pause on the topsy-turvy 2020 season and assess its longer-term plans with a little more calmness.

Scott Redding

Scott Redding World Superbikes 2020

Currently making a name for himself in the World Superbike championship as a factory Ducati rider, he’s also been honest of late about his future aims – and how a return to MotoGP wouldn’t be out of the question.

He left the series in 2018 for British Superbikes, intent on winning that series and finding his way back into world championship racing. Job done.

He’s hinted at wanting to win World Superbikes this year and move back to grand prix racing, and so far he’s not doing a bad job with two wins and seven podiums from nine WSBK races.

Scott Redding Pramac Ducati

However, whether Ducati would accept him back in MotoGP, never mind as a factory rider, is another question.

He’s been there and done that as a Pramac Racing rider, never quite living up to expectations at the time.

He’s not exactly a spring chicken any more either at 27 years old, especially when Miller is set to become number one rider at 25.

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