There was a point in 2020 when Ducati gave the impression that it had been made aware of contract negotiations for the 2021 MotoGP World Championship season.
He had missed the opportunity to hire Fabio Quartararo, Joan Mir and Alex Rins, Andrea Dovizioso walked away from the negotiating table and many felt he failed to score the open goal which was the title world in the absence of Marc Marquez.
Indeed, while Miller had already signed to the works squad long before the start of the delayed 2020 MotoGP season, Ducati gave the impression that he was not entirely convinced that Bagnaia’s promotion from Pramac Racing was the right decision.
What a difference a year makes …
Having a forced hand may have seemed alien to a Ducati team used to getting what they want the moment they open their blank checkbook, but sticking to two proteges eager to impress, adding experience. to Johann Zarco and taking a kick out of youngsters Jorge Martin and Enea Bastianini was inspired.
Therefore, this allowed the team to focus on perfecting the clearly capable Ducati GP20 / GP21 package around riders well versed in the more controversial complexities of its setup, rather than getting a rider more ” determined ”to adapt, and the results speak for themselves.
With eight motorcycles – four GP22 and four GP21 – in his Armada for next year, that means Ducati is heading towards the 2022 MotoGP World Championship as a logical favorite to continue what he started in the second half of this year. season.
But with most of the scorching stretches there is often a storm to break up the heatwave and Ducati faces a headache when it comes to organizing their riders for 2023.
The hangover of a fantastic MotoGP season
I use the term “headache” loosely. Ducati would rather be in a situation where it is playing a game of chess with too many pieces than not enough. But that doesn’t mean he can’t afford to rest on his laurels.
To some extent, the success of Bagnaia in 2021 poses a problem for Ducati in 2022. There is no doubt that the talent of the Italian, although his first two seasons in MotoGP were peppered with enough drops in form and errors to justify what should have been a third season on the Vélo Pramac.
Then Dovizioso called for the resignation, and yet there was talk of promoting Zarco over Bagnaia. This never happened and Bagnaia rewarded the confidence shown by Ducati with a great year, a year which really gained momentum in the finals.
Look at it from a more cynical perspective and Ducati should have won the 2021 MotoGP World Championship against Fabio Quartararo and Yamaha. Bagnaia spoiled two crucial wins at Mugello and Misano, while his qualifying performances at the start of the year left a lot to be desired.
Then again, it is the measure of the rider who not only rebounded from these potentially season-defining mistakes but did so with interest, his wins at Aragon and Misano (Pt.1) under intense pressure some of the best. performance. of recent years.
However, as I hinted at earlier, it was this continuation of Miller and Bagnaia – albeit in different colors – that helped Ducati turn the GP21 into the bike it has been trying to build for years.
There is no doubt that the Ducati is a straight-line rocket, but its shortcomings in braking and cornering negated that strength. Miller and Bagnaia, plus Zarco and of course Michele Pirro, hit each other in 2021, taking advantage of the technical freeze to allow themselves the option of simply modifying and testing those weaknesses without harming the strengths.
This probably wouldn’t have happened if Mir, Rins or Quartararo had come on board… just ask Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow.
Dive into the Ducati MotoGP talent pool
The MotoGP 2022 season is far from the start, but now is the time for managers to earn their 15% with negotiations for 2023 starting in earnest.
This poses a problem for Ducati. If Bagnaia is sure to stick with Ducati for 2023 and beyond, then things are a bit more uncertain in a Ducati talent pool that will face two more riders in 2022.
As it stands, Ducati faces a dilemma in deciding to wait until the start of the 2022 MotoGP season to decide on its roster for 2023. At the moment, only two seats beyond 2022 are insured – Franco Morbidelli at Yamaha and Marc Marquez at Honda. , although the latter may depend on his increasingly worrying level of fitness.
It’s fair to say that Miller’s long-awaited first season as a factory driver fell short of expectations. He started the year well with back-to-back wins, although they came with some fortune after Fabio Quartararo pushed his arm down the order in Jerez and Le Mans was a rainy weather for everyone.
Miller didn’t appear to be fighting for wins elsewhere afterward, allowing Bagnaia to steal a march on what should have been the Aussie team’s leader status at the end of the year.
Miller is an investment Ducati won’t want to throw away, but right now he’s neck and neck in the betting as to whether it will be him or Martin that he wants on the scarlet Ducati GP23.
In Miller’s defense, 2021 should have been a try in Dovizioso’s shadow in which he turned out to be a better foil than outgoing Danilo Petrucci – something he comfortably achieved – before aiming for the title in 2022, but those plans have gone wrong. What wasn’t expected and what didn’t help Miller was that Bagnaia is emerging as the cabinet’s top candidate.
It also doesn’t help that Martin became one of the groundbreaking riders of 2021. The Spaniard didn’t have to land a pole position and a podium in his only second MotoGP race, before doing what Miller, Bagnaia and countless others had failed to do so. in previous years by taking Pramac Racing to the top step of the podium in Austria.
Four pole positions, four podiums and one win were a great comeback to a rookie campaign hampered by injury.
That said, dig under the stats and there are doubts Martin would be ready for Ducati red in 2023. Mistakes were common – perhaps understandable to a rookie – while his lesser results weren’t so sparkling no more.
The same can be said for outstanding 2021 rider Moto2 champion Enea Bastianini, who produced an outstanding performance on the two-year-old Avintia Ducati GP19. His podiums at Misano – achieved with extraordinary pace on race day – were the races of the season, period.
While we reserve some judgment on some of his poor qualifying results due to his much older machinery, Bastianini performed miracles in 2021 that in many ways eclipsed Martin.
And this is where Ducati’s problem lies. He has three riders with enormous potential that we will not understand better before the first rounds of 2022. But can he afford to wait that long…?
Ducati and a bad case of FOMO
Of course, Ducati’s future plans don’t just depend on its own neighborhoods… and its riders won’t depend on their future either.
Indeed, Ducati could find itself in a delicate negotiating position if it waits until the start of the 2022 season to decide how to reorganize its assets for 2023. In the meantime, Suzuki, Honda and Yamaha may be able to catch up. Attention Miller, Martin and Bastianini if this can assure them of factory machines and / or a more defined roadmap for the future if Ducati hesitates.
Not only that, Ducati will not only look inside. The new champion Quartararo left the door very slightly ajar on alternative agreements beyond Yamaha for 2023 and made it clear that emails to him would not necessarily bounce back …
It’s a temptation Ducati will find it hard to resist even though observers might stress that it shouldn’t allow itself a case of FOMO (fear of missing out) if it focuses on what it already has.
And to think about it, we didn’t even start on Johann Zarco, who despite another winless season was Ducati’s top contender for much of the year, while Marco Bezzecchi has all the qualities – and backing – to “make a Bastianini” in 2022.
In conclusion, there is nothing “silly” about Ducati’s impending “silly season” … to come back to that chess analogy, Ducati has to think very carefully about his next moves if he is to tame the opposition.