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Ducati won’t rule out Andrea Iannone return: ‘He’s a great talent’

Ducati MotoGP chief Paolo Ciabatti says Andrea Iannone could be factored into the team's future plans when he returns from his drugs suspension

Andrea Iannone - Ducati MotoGP

Ducati MotoGP Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti has revealed Andrea Iannone could find himself on the list of potential targets for the manufacturer in future despite currently being banned from competition due to a drugs suspension.

The Italian was handed an 18-month ban after testing positive for taking a banned steroid during the 2019 Malaysian MotoGP, though Iannone has long insisted it was ingested erroneously and reportedly intends to appeal the ruling.

For now, the ban rules Iannone out of competing until August 2021 and while current employers Aprilia have indicated they will stand by its rider in appeal hearings, it’s unclear what the hiatus will do for the 30-year old’s career.

Nevertheless, he could yet find other options for a career revival in future with Ducati – with whom Iannone raced between 2013 and 2016 – suggesting it could offer a lifeline due to the history and success the two parties enjoyed with each other.

Andrea Iannone - Ducati MotoGP

"It is clear that on the one hand the main task of the Pramac team is to raise promising young riders to be a kind of 'nursery', as was the case for Iannone, [Danilo] Petrucci, [Jack] Miller and [Francesco] Bagnaia," Ciabatti told Sky Italia. 

"From this point of view Iannone is 30 years old and would not be perfectly positioned in such a programme. Having said that, why not? Never say never.

"And then there is almost a father-and-son-like love between him and Paolo Campinoti, the owner of the Pramac team, and when there are these situations, it is difficult to say no."

Iannone stepped up to MotoGP from Moto2 with Pramac Racing in 2013 before progressing to the factory team in 2015 and scoring a podium in his first race en route to a career-best fifth overall.

However, though Iannone is highly-regarded for his raw pace, his rashness on circuit has seen him come unstuck too. In 2016 as it emerged he was in competition with team-mate Andrea Dovizioso for a Ducati seat the following year, Iannone took both himself and his team-mate out of a podium finish on the final lap of the Argentina MotoGP race much to the fury of management.

Nonetheless, Ciabatti believes Iannone has the opportunity to come back stronger having reflected on the mistakes of the past.

"I think Iannone has great talent, he is a very fast rider. He has lost his way a bit for a lot of reasons; I think he is perfectly aware that he made mistakes in his career at decisive moments.

"But he is a rider who has always proved to be among the fastest, he was one of the riders who fought with Marquez in Moto2 and sometimes won.

"The respect and affection we had for Iannone has not gone away. Sometimes he made us angry because of his attitude, but he has done the same with everyone in the paddock; it is part of his character."

Andrea Iannone, Andrea Dovizioso

Can Andrea Iannone revive his MotoGP career?

A break out of the spotlight for Iannone could potentially do him some good. Ironically, had Iannone started this season on the Aprilia and been out-performed by Aleix Espargaro like he was in 2019 it would be hard to see where he would factor into any teams’ plans in 2021.

Some forced time out on the sidelines means he could be an interesting punt for a team if the Italian feels he has something to prove with a high-profile comeback.

Whether it happens at Ducati is difficult to say. The team already has a bulging roster of people trying to get into its factory team, even before you consider all the other riders it seems to have approached – unsuccessfully – over the winter.