Fifth MotoGP crash for Martin to tip Ducati factory call in Bastianini’s favour?

Enea Bastianini's third MotoGP victory of season in France set to tip Ducati factory seat in his favour over Jorge Martin after fifth crash in seven races

Enea Bastianini, Jorge Martin

Ducati has confirmed it will formally announce which rider will partner Pecco Bagnaia in its factory outfit for the 2023 MotoGP World Championship within the next three weeks amid talk it will change plans to prioritise Enea Bastianini.

In what may turn out to be a pivotal event in Ducati’s decision making process, Bastianini - already the only multiple race winner after seven events - waltzed to a third victory of the season in the French MotoGP at Le Mans.

Consolidating his successes in Qatar and the United States on the year-old Gresini Racing-prepared Ducati GP21, Bastianini has moved back to within eight points of the overall lead following a pair of disappointing results in Portugal and Spain, while he is comfortably Ducati’s leading contender.

By contrast, Jorge Martin - the rider considered Ducati’s original first pick to replace Jack Miller in the works team - endured another weekend to forget, suffering a fifth crash in seven races for a non-score that leaves him 15th in the standings.

Indeed, Martin - who like Bastianini is competing in his second MotoGP campaign - has long been considered the favourite to partner Bagnaia next season, despite an indifferent flyaway campaign in the opening four races that yielded just a single podium.

However crashes in Portugal, Spain and now France have cast major doubt on whether the Spaniard - who courted something of a fast but fragile reputation en route to MotoGP too - can justifiably be promoted ahead of a rider that currently carries the mantle for Ducati in the title fight on aged machinery.

For Miller, Bastianini’s well-judged third win, during which he mirrored his Qatar and USA successes by demonstrating his signature tyre preservation skills to come on strong in the latter stages of the race, makes him a no-brainer now.

"This little bas***d has done it more than twice," Miller is reported as saying by "He’s done it plenty of times. He’s always strong at the end of the race, he’s got a good drive, he’s good on the tyres and he worked it well today. 

"I don’t know what you want me to say. I mean, put two and two together, he’s won three races this year and he’s doing a fantastic job, he’s Italian so it makes perfect sense."

Ducati 2023 MotoGP decision to come after Mugello

While Martin might have remained Ducati’s top pick over Bastianini even as recently as just before Le Mans, the complete contrast in the pair’s trending fortunes in France has the power to transform this decision.

However, the very final call could make the upcoming Italian MotoGP at Mugello absolutely crucial for both the riders and Ducati, not least because the manufacturer says it will formally announce its decision between it and the following Catalunya MotoGP.

As the Borgo Panigale marque’s beloved home race, Ducati has a strong record at Mugello and has been known to place huge emphasis on the influence of a headline result in front of its devoted tifosi. As an example, Danilo Petrucci’s emotional last gasp maiden victory there in 2019 [pictured above] is known to have sealed the deal over Miller for the following two seasons.

Regardless, Bastianini has at least confirmed he has signed a new deal with Ducati for the next two seasons and will race an on-spec GP23… it just remains to be seen what livery it will have.

“I’m happy to stay in Ducati because I’m riding this bike very well and I think it’s the best option for me now. But I don’t know at the moment where my future is. 

"I think we can understand this better in the next races, but I’m happy because Ducati have offered me a good package. Also we can win in the independent team."

With Martin and Bagnaia’s form wavering, Miller greater consistency has moved him up to fifth in the standings but appears unlikely to be in the running to keep his factory seat. However, he is instead tipped to side-step back into the Pramac Racing squad he competed with for three seasons.

To complicate Ducati’s decision further, Johann Zarco is also doing a solid job on the Pramac bike in sixth despite his ongoing wait for a maiden race win. He could remain part of Ducati’s plans in 2023 with a shift into Bastianini’s seat at Gresini Racing.