MotoGP’s pre-season games of musical chairs has seemingly reached a stalemate as Ducati remain one of the few remaining factory teams yet to confirm their rider lineup post 2020.
Yamaha and Honda have already firmed up what their respective outfits will look like from next season, with the latter inking a four-year deal with six-time premier class champion Marc Marquez.
Meanwhile, pitlane rivals Ducati, who have no contracted riders after the current season, have been vocal over the off-season of their pursuits to attract the interests of many of the sport’s top names – Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Vinales, Alex Rins and even faithful Honda man Marquez.
It is not to say that Ducati will field an entirely fresh rider pairing for 2021. Italian media reports have confirmed the team has begun closing in on a deal to retain the services of Andrea Dovizioso.
The Italian has appeared as Marquez’s largest title threat over the past three seasons and the general sentiment shared amongst many of the sport’s leading analysists is that it would be extremely unwise to for the team to let go of Dovizioso.
The problems arise for Dovizoso’s current teammate Danilo Petrucci, who struggled to match the pace of the front runners towards the latter half of 2019.
Meanwhile, Jack Miller was wrestling the sister Premac Racing Ducati team to podium contention at almost every race weekend. The young Australian claimed a trio of top-three finishes in the season’s final six Grands Prix.
Immediately experts began to tout Miller as the ideal replacement for Petrucci, expecting a deal to have been made prior to the start of 2020.
Instead, Ducati, who had become aware of Petrucci’s fall in performance, admitted they would use the first half of the 2020 championship to determine whether his services were to be retained for next season.
But with that option now out of question due to the truncated coronavirus-affected season, reports are emerging that Ducati have already opted to pursue a contract with Miller, leaving Petrucci without a ride.
While a demotion back to the Premac team he spent four seasons with seems implausible, Petrucci is now primed for a switch to the World Superbike Championship.
It is a move Petrucci has endorsed in the past and Ducati have already seen the success of switching Alvaro Bautista to the premier production bike championship.
While nothing is set in stone as of yet, whether Petrucci will see his imminent demotion from Ducati as the signal that his MotoGP career has expired, or as an opportunity to jump ships to one of the paddocks smaller teams like Aprilia or KTM, remains to be seen.
The MotoGP season is set to begin with back-to-back race weekends at Jerez on July 19, with an official confirmation currently awaiting Spanish government legislation.