“I will return…”- Is Andrea Dovizioso making right decision with MotoGP hiatus?

Andrea Dovizioso will take a year out from MotoGP in 2021 after failing to land a good deal... he insists he will return, but is this the right decision?

Twelve months ago Andrea Dovizioso was on the cusp of finishing runner-up in the MotoGP World Championship, an achievement he’d attained for a third consecutive season.

Today he is about to begin what could be his penultimate event in MotoGP - for now, at least - after announcing an enforced sabbatical from racing, the upshot of what has become a messy divorce from Ducati.

The hiatus will rob MotoGP of one of its finest riders, one that - unusually for riders in this stage of his career - has arguably enjoyed his best seasons in its autumn term. Indeed, though Dovizioso is one of the most experienced riders on the grid, he’s matured into the steadiest pair of hands with an unfailing ability to get the best from the machine at his disposal.

In a way, we may not have really seen what Dovizioso is actually capable of aboard the right bike at the right time.

After all, the Ducati is a tricky mistress - just ask Valentino Rossi for one - but on occasions where the Desmosedici has been unbeatable it was nearly always Dovizioso fronting that charge. It’s always worth noting his rookie season, finishing fifth overall on the satellite JiR Team Scot Honda, out-scoring Dani Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda and a year on the Tech 3 Yamaha in which he trounced Cal Crutchlow.

With this in mind, it’s perhaps understandable Dovizioso felt aggrieved by Ducati’s attempts to whittle down his contract on the back of a trio of runner-up finishes, then place pressure on him by signing Jack Miller for 2021.

While there has been criticism that Dovizioso maybe lacks the final few percent to assure himself as a MotoGP legend, one could also argue he has out-performed the Ducati underneath him, something that will be revealed next year when Miller and Pecco Bagnaia take on the expectation of challenging for the title. 

After years of unfailing loyalty to Ducati, it’s admirable Dovizioso has stuck to his guns.

What now for Andrea Dovizioso?

The sofa… which doesn’t sound preferable to us, but there is strength to be gleaned from Dovizioso taking control of the decision-making process and choosing this route himself.

There were offers on the table, albeit few tangible ones. Aprilia made contact but were nowhere in the ballpark with its terms and its foolhardy decision to wait on Andrea Iannone doesn’t scream ‘we want you’, something Aleix Espargaro has previously commented is a huge mistake on the team’s part.

Yamaha emerged as a possible candidate in a test rider position but with MotoGP set to use the same packages in 2021, there is little to be gained for Dovizioso going down that route even if the regular race riders would have no doubt felt a little threatened when he’d turned up for wildcard outings.

Dovizioso insists this is not the end of his career, though just as many have returned from a sabbatical as those that have indeed eventually opted against returning.

We should expect to see Dovizioso on ‘a grid’ in 2021, but it won’t be on two wheels. Rossi may have been outward in his desire to go car racing post-career, but Dovizioso showed some surprising nous when he made a respectable DTM debut in 2019, while he quietly tested a rallycross car recently.

Has Andrea Dovizioso made the right decision?

While Dovizioso isn’t a man of many words, even in those few words you can see his vision when it comes to the future.

Others that have emphasised their self-worth have often played their hand too early (ask Max Biaggi…) but you don’t get the feeling Dovizioso sees a year out as a risk.

It’s worth noting of course that a new cycle of team contracts begin in 2022, which will open up the floodgates for new teams to enter. That will likely see VR46 - potentially led by a newly retired Valentino Rossi - join the fray, while a full-factory Aprilia will see Gresini Racing spin off into a satellite effort and Suzuki will likely feel compelled to double its efforts too.

That said, most rider contract cycles are to the end of 2022, save for KTM which have all four bikes potentially available by then.

The biggest ‘wait and see’ though could come courtesy of Repsol Honda as there remains a few doubts over whether Marc Marquez will be ready to race again in 2021. It’s not worth putting your own career on pause for that, but it’s certainly a compelling prospect.

And in a year that has seen injury and COVID-19 wreak some havoc on the entry lists, there really is no better super-sub you could hope for in Dovizioso.

While you can argue there was an opportunity missed in 2020, the toxic relationship at Ducati puts the responsibility of missed goals firmly at the team’s fumbling feet.

In short, Dovizioso may head into a winter of complete unknowns, but he will do so with his held high because, after all, it is his career and he is taking control of it.
 

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