Did Scott Redding underperform with Ducati in WorldSBK?

Scott Redding has exited Ducati after two years that brought wins and podiums, but not the sought after WorldSBK title... but is Redding or Ducati at fault?

Scott Redding - Aruba.it Ducati, WorldSBK 2021

It has been an eventful few years for Scott Redding ever since he bid a reluctant farewell to MotoGP in favour of a new career path competing in the BSB and WorldSBK ranks.

It wasn’t a conventional route, Redding pushed out of the premier class after a year at Aprilia that he’d like to forget - prompting him to consider retirement altogether at the ‘tender’ age of 25 - before rebuilding his reputation with the BSB title in 2019 and a successful turn in WorldSBK in 2020 and 2021.

However, Redding heads to pastures new for the 2022 WorldSBK season, switching to BMW after being rather abruptly dropped by Ducati despite 13 wins and 37 podiums.

Ducati doesn’t give much away at the best of times, but Redding’s failure to consistently take the fight to Toprak Razgatlioglu and Jonathan Rea in 2021 appears to be the reasoning behind the decision to let him go after two seasons.

So, is Ducati justified in its reasoning or did Redding extract the most from what he had?

Scott Redding is the reason Ducati failed to win WorldSBK title

For all of his ‘love him, loathe him’ bravado off the track, Redding appears to be a relatively sensitive one on it.

That’s not to say the 28-year old can’t pull off some nifty tricks a la Razgatlioglu - few riders will ever (want to attempt to) get their head down while riding a MotoGP bike after all - but in the interests of hitting the fastest lap time Redding needs a bike he is in tune with.

Such physicality on a bike certainly seemed to suit him in BSB where the largely electronics-less Ducati Panigale V4 R and the somewhat bumpier British venues allowed Redding to let it get loose with interest and still be quick.

This isn’t a style that necessarily works in WorldSBK and while you may point to it being the way Razgatlioglu achieved his success, it did take a year of Yamaha fine-tuning the R1 to meet the needs of its rider, rather than the other way around.

By contrast, Ducati never seemed as willing to lean the Panigale V4 R into Redding, leaving him to spend too long getting the bike up to speed on a weekend. It’s worth noting that three of Redding’s wins in 2021 were achieved in the final race of a weekend…

Tactically there were some missteps too. While Redding nailed his tyre choice in a damp-to-dry Aragon opener, this validated risk-taking seemingly led to him making then erroneous choices in Estoril and Donington Park, two races that set him back in the title fight early on from which he never really recovered. 

Moreover, Redding wasn’t quite as confident as Razgatlioglu and Rea in elbow-to-elbow combat and often came out worst during late race battles, such as that in Most, Navarra, Jerez and Mandalika. 

While the frequency and trust between Razgatlioglu and Rea perhaps explains why Redding was never quite as able to give as good as he got in these situations, it’s fair to say there were a few wins that went wanting as a result.

Ducati is the reason Ducati failed to win WorldSBK title

But is this really the fault of the rider over the team? 

To an extent yes - Redding owned his tyre strategy mistakes and really you can’t wave the finger elsewhere for some rare but damaging crashes, such as that at Donington Park and Magny-Cours.

However, you sensed Ducati wasn’t all that deep into 2021 before looking towards 2022. Retrospectively when I look back at my interview with Redding at Donington Park, the fissures were already well formed, the Briton admitting to needing to adopt a more ‘party line’ angle when it came to talking to the media and being quite downbeat at what more he could do on the bike.

Lo and behold, Redding was soon confirmed with BMW and Ducati was hitting up Bautista, a querysome decision in some ways that we’ve written articles about already.

At the heart of Redding’s dismissal is the notion - true or otherwise - that Ducati, now ten years without a title, thinks it has the best bike on the grid.

It’s not an unfair assumption, but it is tempered by saying it is perhaps the quickest bike, but only when it is working at 100 per cent. 

Aruba.it Ducati boss Serafino Foti made one very accurate comment when describing its 2020 and 2021 WorldSBK seasons to WorldSBK.com - the Ducati Panigale V4 R was not an easy bike to set-up.

Indeed, Redding himself made a point earlier in the year that the Ducati has a relatively small operating window, one that as we mentioned previously often took time to find on different venues, a task made harder by the higher than normal damp sessions that took place in 2021.

Foti is also right that the Ducati is perhaps quicker with a smaller rider on it, something Redding certainly isn’t. We’ll borrow a term from Leon Camier, who said he ‘looked like a monkey humping a football’ when he competed on the Aprilia RSV 4.

It meant the Ducati’s evident straight-line strength was never as notable in Redding’s hands as it was in pint-size Bautista’s hands, though the Briton was generally more stable on it. 

As such, it is not only Ducati that believes it has the fastest bike but this ultimately counts for little if it’s not consistent in a year where the Kawasaki and Yamaha might have been slower but could rock up and be quick from the get-go.

It’s for this reason that Ducati dropped Redding, believing it had the fastest bike but a rider unable to unlock its full potential enough to capitalise.

However, a return to Bautista won’t necessarily cure its ills. The Spaniard lost the 2019 WorldSBK title when he lost feel on the front-end and with it confidence, an issue that continued to hamper him during his time at Honda.

In short, Bautista found the operating window straight away in part because he had nothing else to measure it against, but once he lost it he found it hard to get it back. And he isn’t the only one with every rider that has thrown a leg over the Panigale V4 R - Chaz Davies, Michael Ruben Rinaldi - also lurching between hard to beat and unmemorable in equal measures.

With this in mind, Ducati perhaps needs to shine a harsher light on itself when it intimates that its riders didn’t meet its targets.

While the no doubt rapid pace of the Ducati in his hands in a straight line alone should see Bautista near the front in 2022, the jury is still very much out on whether he can bring better results home than Redding did.

It means the return of Bautista means Ducati has nowhere to hide in 2022… if he cannot perform better than Redding despite having the literal measurements to do so, then perhaps it is the bike that needs some tweaking for 2023.