Jorge Lorenzo had Ducati talks... but turned 2021 MotoGP deal down

Jorge Lorenzo insists he was on course to return to the 2021 MotoGP World Championship grid but eventually pulled out of negotiations with Ducati

Jorge Lorenzo - Ducati Corse

Jorge Lorenzo has revealed he was close to signing a deal with Ducati to return to racing for the 2021 MotoGP World Championship season but insists turned his former employers down when he got deeper into negotiations.

The Spaniard competed with Ducati for two seasons in 2017 and 2018, but struggled to replicate the form that took him to three MotoGP World Championship titles with Yamaha, leading to the announcement of a split mid-way through the latter campaign. 

Lorenzo, however, went on to redeem himself with three wins in six races on the Desmosedici but a disastrous switch to Honda for 2019 led to him announcing his retirement, albeit via a return to Yamaha as its test rider. 

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Despite this, the possibility of a Ducati-Lorenzo reunion has continued to bubble in the background, not least in the wake of the confirming Andrea Dovizioso will quit the manufacturer. 

While Ducati itself has sought to play down the prospect of re-signing Lorenzo, the man himself insists the 2021 MotoGP deal was very much on before he pulled out of negotiations because he isn’t motivated by a return to racing.

“It was a real very real possibility and it almost happened,” he told Autosport. “During the lockdown I received a call from Gigi Dall’Igna to wish me happy birthday. We talked about personal matters, family and things like that, and at the end of the conversation I asked him, out of curiosity, about the future of the team and the drivers. Shortly after Michele Pirro sent me a message asking me if I wanted to return to Ducati.

“Between Gigi’s call and Michele’s message, I thought there was some interest on the part of Ducati, and I started to consider racing again. Maybe because I was stuck for those few months, ot because I missed that feeling of victory, but the phone call triggered the thought of returning to the fore of my head. 

“We started negotiations, but the closer we got to signing, the more the factors that forced me to retire gained weight. After several days of reflection, I unfortunately had to say no to Gigi. 

Apologising to Ducati for raising expectations before withdrawing, Lorenzo maintains he has no plans to get back to racing

“I was feeling really bad and I’m still very sorry now, because I put him in an awkward position with the company and I could have avoided it. If I had been certain from the beginning I would not have even entered negotiations. 

“The truth is that I will always be grateful for the trust shown in me, but at that moment I felt that I had to think purely of myself, and I came to the conclusion that being a rider was no longer for me.”

Could Jorge Lorenzo really return to MotoGP?

Lorenzo’s never been the most straightforward rider when it comes to doing what he says, which is why Ducati may dispute this version of events.

Truth is, Lorenzo commands a lot of respect among several influential people in Ducati - most notably Dall’Igna - but it’s also known the manufacturer has been liberal with its approaches over the last few months targeting the likes of Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Vinales, Joan Mir, Alex Rins and even briefly questioning Marc Marquez.

With this in mind, it’s perhaps not so surprising Dovizioso felt somewhat undervalued by Ducati even before it changed the terms of an original 2021 MotoGP agreement, ultimately leading to the Italian’s move to call its bluff and quit.

Considering the timeline - Lorenzo’s birthday was in May, Dovizioso confirmed his exit in August - then any return might have been angled at Pramac Racing, which may have been a detracting factor for Spaniard.

On the record, Lorenzo says he is 99% certain he will stay retired, but he’s also said ‘never say never’... frankly, we wouldn’t be surprised if Lorenzo adopts a life of test riding or gets back to racing action.

Indeed, one has to wonder how he would have fared in what has been such an open season