Is Ducati offering Johann Zarco a 2020 MotoGP lifeline?

Johann Zarco is not listed on the 2020 MotoGP entry list but there is talk Ducati could reshuffle its line-up to offer him a lifeline next year

Johann Zarco - LCR Honda

The 2020 MotoGP World Championship provisional entry list has been revealed with no notable surprises on it in the wake of Alex Marquez’s confirmation at Repsol Honda, though paddock talk suggests Johann Zarco could still feature next year.

The Frenchman was frozen out of Honda’s line-up following its decision to select Moto2 World Champion Marquez alongside his brother Marc Marquez on a one-year deal, thus filling the one remaining seat on the provisional grid.

However, while Zarco has been linked with a return to Moto2, most likely replacing Marquez at the title-winning Marc VDS team, there is still momentum behind keeping him the six-time podium winner in MotoGP.

The latest talk is that Ducati is reconsidering its entire line-up with a view to getting Zarco on board on one of its six bikes (Ducati Corse, Pramac Ducati, Avintia Ducati). However, as it stands, Ducati has no available spots officially, but according to Speedweek, Avintia’s Karel Abraham is undergoing a renegotiation on terms at Avintia.

“It is no secret, that we want to adjust some things for 2020 in our existing contract,” he said. “We are negotiating with the team. It's complicated. It's about basic things that we want to adapt. The team also wants to make changes in the contract. We'll see where that leads to.

However, Abraham – who has a best finish of seventh from eight seasons competing in MotoGP – says Avintia would be forced to break his contract to make a move on Zarco.

"Of course, it can happen that we can not agree. But if the team does not want to break the contract, I will continue here. Zarco cannot talk to Avintia until the team or we decide to break up the contract. But we are not in this position right now. I personally really want to continue, because I love racing. I love MotoGP and definitely want to stay here. But adjustments are needed in the contract. And hopefully we'll see how it ends soon.”

Ducati to reshuffle its riders to accommodate Johann Zarco?

Tellingly, Zarco has already dismissed the idea of joining Avintia Racing because ‘it is not a top team’ but this may not be the end of the conversation for the Frenchman because he may not be heading to the Spanish team anyway.

On the more extreme end of the speculation, there is talk that Danilo Petrucci could be dumped from his Ducati Corse role as a result of a dismal second-half of the season in which he struggled to mount anything more than a mid-field challenge.

By contrast, Jack Miller enjoyed a notable upturn during the same period, culminating in a trio of podiums from the final four races. Though various figures have swerved the conversation, if it comes to fruition, Miller would be promoted in his place.

However, Zarco’s hesitance over Avintia could yet see him chosen as Miller’s Pramac deputy, with Petrucci heading right back down to the third-string team.

Much will depend on how much Ducati wants Zarco – who was seen in talks at Pramac yesterday - and whether it is willing to effectively sacrifice its Mugello MotoGP race winner for the Frenchman.

That said, Avintia Racing is now an official Ducati satellite effort, which means the manufacturer will supply it with year-old bikes rather than buying them. That has been made possible by Ducati deciding to run latest spec bikes at Pramac Racing and could well free up some cash – and good favour – for Avintia.

Moreover, Zarco has the benefit of Dorna in his corner as they are keen to keep a Moto2 World Champion on the grid and keep a Frenchman on the grid alongside new talisman Fabio Quartararo.

The Zarco tale is a story that just keeps on giving…