MotoGP

Could Danilo Petrucci-Jack Miller swap Ducati seats for 2020 MotoGP?

Could Jack Miller's rising stock coupled to Danilo Petrucci's under-performance prompt Ducati to shuffle its 2020 MotoGP rider line-up?

Pramac Ducati manager Francesco Guidotti has poured cold water on growing speculation that Ducati could swap riders Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller between the factory and satellite set ups on the back of differing fortunes on the GP19.

Petrucci graduated from Pramac to the factory Ducati team for the 2019 MotoGP season in place of the Honda-bound Jorge Lorenzo on a one-year deal and was re-signed for 2020 on the back of an emotional breakthrough maiden MotoGP win at Mugello in front of Ducati top brass.

However, since then Petrucci’s form has stalled, his front-running performances from the opening half of the season giving way to a run of disappointing results during the second half with a best finish of just seventh from the last nine events. By contrast, Miller on the satellite Pramac bike – which runs to the same specification as the factory machines – has achieved a trio of podiums

The contrasting fortunes have raised talk in the Italian media that Ducati may consider promoting Miller to the factory fold in 2020, with Petrucci returning to Pramac. However, Pramac’s own Guidotti boss told Speedweek that is not in his team’s interests having run the Italian last season already.

"These stories have already come to light in Aragon,” he said. “Then it was quiet for three races in Thailand, Japan and Australia. Here in Sepang the stories started again. Of course, everything is possible in racing. Because Ducati Corse has both driver contracts in hand. But we expect Jack to be with us, we sincerely hope that we can keep him.

“It was fixed with him at the GP of Austria fix, that he drives next year with us with a GP20. We have to dig deep into our pockets and invest more money, because Pecco Bagnaia has in its two-year contract the assurance of a GP20 for the second year. And of course we had to provide Jack with identical material. "

"Danilo was with us, now he is in the factory team. There's no point in getting him back.”

Underperforming Danilo Petrucci coming under pressure

In the wake of his spectacular and well-judged Italian MotoGP win at Mugello, there were few who doubted Petrucci would get another season on the factory Ducati but save for a podium directly after that in Spain, his form has plummeted.

A lack of confidence on the GP19 has been attributed for the dip and Ducati has said it is committing to helping Petrucci work through the evident problems, but his fortunes haven’t improved.

The figures make for uncomfortable reading. In the last nine races since the resumption from the summer break, Petrucci has scored 55 points compared with Miller’s 79 points and Andrea Dovizioso’s 129. That’s an average of just six points – or 10th place – from each race.

Guidotti to an extent is correct, there is nothing necessarily to gain from having Miller and Petrucci swap positions giving they are supposed to be on the same Ducati machinery, but the factory would still prefer to have its best results coming from the rider in red. Right now, we’re becoming used to seeing Miller and Dovizioso up at the sharp end.

Italian patriotism aside, Petrucci will need a strong finish in Valencia to convince Ducati he is in the right seat and hope Miller doesn’t again show why he is considered a factory rider-in-waiting.

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