Johann Zarco set to grab factory Ducati seat for 2021 MotoGP?

Johann Zarco in contention to be a factory Ducati rider for the 2021 MotoGP World Championship, with Pecco Bagnaia staying at Pramac and Enea Bastianini in Avintia

Johann Zarco - Avintia Ducati

Johann Zarco has been closely linked to stepping into the factory Ducati team for the 2021 MotoGP World Championship after Ruben Xaus revealed he is ‘99% certain’ not to be remaining with Avintia Racing next season.

The Frenchman has emerged as a major contender for the Ducati seat that will be left vacant by Andrea Dovizioso following a superb turn of form on the unfancied year-old Avintia Ducati GP19 in 2020.

Though not necessarily considered an option for the Ducati factory team initially when he was parachuted into the Spanish outfit, several headline grabbing results - not least his pole position and podium in Brno - have prompted Ducati to have a rethink.

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Now Avintia Racing boss Xaus has gone on record as saying Zarco is set to depart its team for 2020, to be replaced by Moto2 front runner Enea Bastianini.

Indeed, Ducati was originally seen as unlikely to promote Zarco over protege Pecco Bagnaia, but the Italian’s untimely injury at Brno - which ruled him out for three races in which his stablemate starred - means the firm may choose to play it safe by keeping him at Pramac Racing, albeit still on current generation machinery.

Beyond Jack Miller on the factory Ducati and Tito Rabat at Avintia, Ducati has four seats still to confirm. However, it appears now that Zarco will be paired with Miller on the ‘red’ bikes, with Bagnaia being joined by Jorge Martin, while Rabat and Bastianini will compete on the Avintia.

Does Johann Zarco deserve factory Ducati rider for MotoGP 2021?

Without a doubt Zarco has been one of the standout performers of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship season and has gone a long way to reminding the world that he is after all6 a MotoGP pole position and podium winner, plus a double Moto2 World Champion.

However, he came into 2020 with doubts about his resolve after a torrid time at KTM - which led to an early divorce and a less than favourable paddock reputation - and a decision by Honda to choose Alex Marquez over him for this year, a decision it may be regretting at this moment.

With something to prove but no pressure to perform on the Avintia Ducati, Zarco has nonetheless rarely been out of the headlines since, his superb efforts in Brno and Austria not only highlighting him as a front runner but often as the top Ducati rider overall.

It would be a shame for Bagnaia, who has the pace to match Zarco but was forced to sit things out at an awkward moment. He will still be a threat on the Pramac Racing machine though.

A happy Zarco is a fast Zarco… though it just remains to be seen is whether the infamous pressure cooker environment of the factory Ducati team will take its toll.