Will Ducati's failed shopping spree make Andrea Dovizioso quit team?

Andrea Dovizioso refuses to say he will stay with Ducati in 2021 after it emerges the team has approached several other riders during the winter period

Andrea Dovizioso - Ducati

Andrea Dovizioso says he ‘cannot say whether he will continue with Ducati’ beyond the 2020 MotoGP World Championship season amid the team’s attempts to make a play for several other top riders over the winter.

The Italian joined Ducati in 2013 and has been a primary factor in returning the team to competitiveness in the years since Casey Stoner clinched its one and only MotoGP title in 2007.

However, despite 12 victories and finishing runner-up to Marc Marquez over the past three seasons – including taking the title fight down to the wire in 2017 – Dovizioso’s status in the team has been rocked by the clear evidence Ducati has targeted the signature of several other riders over the winter.

Indeed, Ducati’s interest in both Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo was significant enough that it forced Yamaha’s hand to sign them for 2021 much earlier than anticipated. Moreover, it is believed both Suzuki’s Alex Rins and especially Joan Mir have attracted interest too.

However, amid all this Dovizioso has suggested Ducati’s dwindling options don’t necessarily mean he will sign on the dotted line either for 2021.

“As long I can win the world championship I want to try and continue to take that risk, but only if I have a winning project behind me,” he told GPOne. “Otherwise it won’t be a problem for me not to go on, I know what I want and I work for it. I am relaxed, I know what I am working on, I know my strengths and weaknesses and I have my situation quite clear.

“At the moment, I cannot say I will continue with Ducati, anything can happen. Yamaha have already made their move, but I think it is still early to talk about 2021-2022.”

What next for Andrea Dovizioso?

From the outside it’s hard to imagine why Ducati would want to lose Dovizioso, who has worked diligently over the years to drag the firm from mid-fielders to title contenders on his watch.

When you consider the likes of Valentino Rossi, Cal Crutchlow, Andrea Iannone and Jorge Lorenzo have come and gone for varying reasons over the years, Dovizioso might feel somewhat aggrieved Ducati is seemingly looking around at other riders.

On the other hand, others question whether Dovizioso has shown enough in that time that he is a rider with the aggression and consistency needed to be a genuine title fighter. It's a question Ducati has seemingly asked itself too.

Indeed, while signing just one of the aforementioned riders doesn’t necessarily mean Dovizioso is out of the team, they would be a clear rival to his number one status. Moreover, it isn't exactly a vote of confidence.

Ironically, Ducati’s lack of options could put Dovzioso in a better bargaining position when it comes to thrashing out a contract, but the Italian might well feel aggrieved enough to glance at his options in a veritable ‘two-fingers up’ at team management with whom he reportedly has a ‘frosty’ relationship.

At this time there aren’t too many alternative seats out there to appeal to a rider of Dovizioso’s experience, but some are predicting Aprilia could be a perfect match depending on how competitive its RS-GP proves in 2020. On paper there is a lot going for this combination - he’d fulfil the Italian quota, bring a huge amount of knowledge to a growing project and he’d be fired up by the motivation of defeating Ducati. It just remains to be seen whether the race bike is as swift as its early testing results allude to.

From Ducati's point of view, a Dovizioso departure wouldn't spell disaster when you consider it has the likes of Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller, Pecco Bagnaia and Johann Zarco on its books, but as ‘riders-in-waiting’ they might not take too kindly at their employers looking to bring others in over them either…

As Ducati showed in 2019 with the Lorenzo-Miller saga, they don’t always have the best approach when it comes to rider morale and this latest episode threatens to leave them looking rather foolish.