“I didn’t leave Ducati over money”, Alvaro Bautista insists

Alvaro Bautista says 'motivation' for a new challenge prompted his move out of the title-challenging Ducati team for an expected shift to under-performing Honda

Alvaro Bautista has brushed off suggestions he is leaving Ducati at the end of just a single season in the World Superbike Championship with the manufacturer is because it couldn’t match the money on offer from his anticipated new employers, Honda.

The Spaniard, who started 158 MotoGP races before moving into WorldSBK made a spectacular start to his career in the production-series this year with 11 consecutive wins, before a slump in form saw his title hopes fade in the wake of a dominant return to prominence for Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea.

In the meantime, Bautista went cool on the prospect of re-signing with Ducati beyond 2019, letting a deadline to accept its new deal during the summer break pass by.

With Ducati going on to confirm Bautista’s exit by signing MotoGP-turned-BSB front runner Scott Redding for the 2020 WorldSBK season, the Spaniard is expected to put pen to paper on a deal to join the Honda next season, a manufacturer that has managed just three top ten results between its three riders this year. 

Speaking during this weekend’s Portimao WorldSBK round – where he returned to the top of the podium for the first time since June – Bautista keeps his cards close to his chest when quizzed on his future. However, he is firm when he discusses the financial terms of his Ducati departure.

“I didn’t leave Ducati for the money, it’s a question of motivation,” he is quoted as saying by GPOne. Certainly, the current challenge motivated me, but where I’ll be next year could be another interesting challenge for my future. 

”Everyone says I’ll be going to Honda, but all I said was that they made me an offer. I signed up with a team, but I can’t say which one. Will I remain in WorldSBK? There are many possibilities.

“Sometimes in life you have to make important decisions, like moving to WorldSBK. I haven’t made a crazy decision for next year.”

The reasons why Bautista didn't (just) leave over money?

Despite Bautista’s inevitable coyness, there are few who don’t expect that ‘challenge’ to be Honda – and on paper at least it certainly looks like he faces a huge task to bring it up to race-winning standard.

Indeed, Honda has managed just three top ten finishes in 2019 – and a best result of eighth - under the Moriwaki Althea banner. However, this Japanese-Italian effort is only a de facto ‘official’ effort before it shifts to a satellite operation and makes way for the incoming works HRC effort.

Indeed, HRC is taking this next generation approach seriously with the latest paddock rumours suggesting the ‘new’ team will be based in Spain (Bautista home nation) alongside its multiple title-winning MotoGP outfit, while it is also common – if unconfirmed – knowledge that a new CBR1000RR Fireblade has been in development for months behind closed doors.

Where it comes to money, it’s certainly plausible Bautista’s dramatic drop in form could have harmed his bargaining position with Ducati. The man himself spoke highly of feeling like a ‘star’ at Ducati when he was winning, but that vindication for a more favourable 2020 contract most likely weakened when he began to crash and – probably – throw away the 2019 title.

With such a formidable bike in the Ducati Panigale V4 R and riders like Scott Redding waiting in the wings as a probable like-for-like replacement, it’s unlikely the Italian firm would have wanted to budge on its terms for Bautista if it wasn’t even getting the title it so dearly wanted – and looked like it was getting – until mid-way through the season. 

On the other side of the coin, in the absence of notable results with the CBR1000RR Fireblade in recent years, Honda knew it would need to dazzle with big bucks to secure the name and talent it needed to head up its ambitious project.

Moreover, Bautista is very sure of his abilities and the chance to return Honda to the same circles as Kawasaki and Ducati is indeed a very enticing ‘challenge’.

Is being a star at Honda better than being a star at Ducati? The former would arguably earn him more respect…

It wouldn’t hurt if it came with the caveat of a MotoGP clause too… not to mention that aforementioned financial incentive.

He says all will be revealed by Magny-Cours… not long to wait. 

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