Is Danilo Petrucci being primed for switch to WorldSBK in 2021?

With his factory MotoGP ride under threat from Jack Miller, reports in the Italian media are tipping Danilo Petrucci to switch to WorldSBK in 2021

Scott Redding - Ducati

The 2020 MotoGP World Championship hasn’t turned a competitive wheel as yet but the discussions around rider line-up for the 2021 season have been slowly gathering momentum in recent weeks.

With Yamaha and Suzuki firming up its riders for the next two seasons and Marc Marquez penning a four-year deal with Honda, attention is turning to Ducati for who it will commit to its two factory bikes.

While Ducati has made it very clear it’s been on a shopping spree over the winter, attempting to lure the likes of Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Vinales, Alex Rins, Joan Mir and even Marquez to Borgo Panigale – albeit unsuccessfully – it looks as though the firm will be sticking with what it has.

That’s not to say it will field an unchanged rider line-up next season, with reports in the Italian press suggesting it is closing on a deal to retain Andrea Dovizioso – Marquez’s nearest challenger for the past three seasons – and promoting Jack Miller into the works spot next to him.

Ducati had hoped to use the opening rounds of the 2020 MotoGP season to decide directly between its current factory rider Danilo Petrucci and Miller in the sister Pramac Racing team.

This time last year Petrucci was on a high after securing his first MotoGP win in spectacular circumstances at Mugello with an exemplary performance. An extension into 2020 duly followed over Miller, but almost as soon as the ink was dry their form levels ventured in different directions, with the Australian becoming a regular podium contender and Petrucci struggling to crack the top six.

Such was the disparity in form to the end of the year that rumours arose Petrucci and Miller could be swapped early for 2020, before Ducati instead decided to retain the status quo in order to assess them in the opening rounds of the year.

Of course, this hasn’t happened and with July’s proposed restart date for MotoGP arguably too late for Ducati to loiter on making a decision, Italian media is reporting Miller has emerged as the most likely pick over the two.

What next for Danilo Petrucci?

If Petrucci is eased out of the factory Ducati team, it’s questionable as to whether he would venture back to the Pramac Racing team he raced with for four seasons before his factory promotion.

Nonetheless, there are other options within the MotoGP fold with Aprilia Racing looking promising perhaps depending on whether Andrea Iannone is successful in his upcoming appeal to get his drugs suspension quashed or reduced.

However, Ducati will likely want to keep hold of its Italian ‘hero’ making a move into the WorldSBK Championship following in the footsteps of Alvaro Bautista very plausible.

The Italian has already stated he would be interested in a switch to WorldSBK – where he began his career in the Superstock ranks – if there was no other option in MotoGP, while a competitive Ducati seat alongside Scott Redding, a rider he largely had the measure of when they raced together at Pramac Racing, would surely identify him as a potential threat for the title.

Moreover, Ducati seems to be on the hunt for a new rider to partner Redding unless Chaz Davies can get to grips with the new Panigale V4 R after a difficult opening round in Australia.

The 2020 season hasn’t started but the rider market is starting to get juicy…