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Pecco Bagnaia inches closer to factory Ducati seat for 2021 MotoGP

While nearly every team has firmed up riders for 2021 MotoGP, Ducati still has 5 seats to resolve... not least who will replace Andrea Dovizioso

Pecco Bagnaia, Andrea Dovizioso

He may not be on track at the Red Bull Ring this weekend as he continues his recovery from a knee injury sustained in Brno but Pecco Bagnaia appears to be inching closer to replacing Andrea Dovizioso in the factory Ducati team for the 2021 MotoGP season.

The Italian manufacturer has been left in the lurch after failing to come to an agreement with its lead rider Dovizioso – runner-up to Marc Marquez in each of the past three seasons – the experienced Italian coolly walking away rather than pen an agreement he wasn’t happy with.

His exit confirmation comes after Ducati announced it would be letting Danilo Petrucci go to at the end of 2020 to be replaced by Jack Miller, though it had always anticipated Dovizioso would be staying before souring relations scuppered those plans.

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At this stage in the year Ducati has precious few options available to fill a seat that should be fighting for the title in 2021, but it is now thought to be closing on at least a two-year deal with Bagnaia to keep him in the Ducati fold. A decision on whether he stays at Pramac Racing or is promoted with Miller to be made later. 

“We are defining a renewal with Bagnaia for two years, we will decide later if it is for the official team or if it will continue for a year with Pramac,” Paolo Ciabatti told Sky Italia. “We intend to continue with Zarco as well and then we want to be able to include an Italian rider who comes from Moto2 in one of our teams.”

While such a notion might have seemed questionable last year as 2018 Moto2 champ Bagnaia blended flashes of speed with inconsistency and a number of crashes, this season armed with the latest Ducati GP20 he was a match for Miller in Jerez and would have scored his maiden MotoGP podium but for technical issues.

His knee injury has come at an inopportune time, preventing him from really hammering home his argument at the favourable Red Bull Ring, but by promoting Bagnaia Ducati will at least keep the tifosi happy by signing another Italian.

What about the other Ducati seats?

Bizarrely, of the eight MotoGP seats yet to be officially confirmed for 2021, five of them have ended up at Ducati, a stat made even more surprising by the fact it was very obviously chasing everyone from Fabio Quartararo to Maverick Vinales to Joan Mir to Alex Rins at the start of the year.

Instead, Ducati’s neglect of Dovizioso has seen him decide to leave on his terms, even if his seat for 2021 now might just be his sofa.

Beyond Bagnaia, Johann Zarco may have gone from relative hero to zero in a matter of days with his Brno pole/podium and then that incident at the Red Bull Ring, but few can deny he has been impressive on the unfancied Avintia Ducati GP19.

The Frenchman has long said he is eyeing a factory seat but it seems unlikely Ducati would ever choose Zarco over Bagnaia given the investment it has paid into the latter. As such, Zarco is probably going to stay at Avintia, but Ducati will most likely pay it a bit more attention for the rest of 2020 and into 2021…

As for Pramac Racing, it will go back to becoming Ducati’s proving ground for the future, which is rather exciting because it has the pick of a talented Moto2 group. With Jorge Martin looking set for one of the rides, Ciabatti’s comment about wanting another Italian narrows things down, with Luca Marini (left in the image above) and Enea Bastianini (on the right) expected to go head-to-head for the available seat.

The money is on Marini right now as he’d succeed fellow VR46 Academy rider Bagnaia, though Bastianini is arguably regarded as the stronger future bet…