2018 is a big year for MotoGP riders as the majority of their contracts were due to expire this season.
However there has been a flurry of activity already in tying down riders to new deals, this includes Marc Marquez confirming he will stay at Honda while Yamaha retained Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi.
Then you turn to another of the manufacturer teams in Ducati. Both Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso’s contracts expire at the end of 2018.
Ducati has some big decisions to make. It has made great progress over the last five seasons with its bike, it now being more than capable of challenging for world championships. However the team does need at least one top rider in order to turn that potential into reality.
They thought they had done that with the signing of Jorge Lorenzo, but as 2017 and the 2018 preseason has shown, Lorenzo is taking time to adapt to the Ducati bike. Meanwhile Dovizioso has increased his stock considerably filling the role that Lorenzo had been brought in to do.
In 2015 Dovizioso had only won one MotoGP Grand Prix, in 2009 with Honda. Now at this point in 2018 he has a further eight victories covering 2016 to the start of 2018. This period also includes mounting a championship challenge last season. It makes Dovizioso an important part of the 2019 rider market, and while waiting for a suitable offer from Ducati, it has been reported that the Italian has held talks with Honda and Suzuki.
For Ducati it is surely a no-brainer to make a bigger offer to keep Dovizioso at the team, considering the work he has put in to help bring Ducati back to the front of the grid. Should the Italian team not make as improved offer that Dovizioso would like and he decided to go elsewhere, who would Ducati get to replace him. There would be the potential for either a Lorenzo/Petrucci or Lorenzo/Pirro line up for 2019, but would this be seen as a weaker line up than continuing with having Dovizioso alongside Lorenzo.
It is reported that Dovizioso’s preferred option is to remain with Ducati, but should a suitable offer not materialise there is still a risk with the Italian moving back to Honda or switching to Suzuki. It can be interpreted that Honda is very much Marquez’s team and although Dovizioso has shown he can match and beat Marquez, would harmony within the Honda team suffer in a similar way there was a strained atmosphere in Yamaha during the Lorenzo/Rossi years.Embed from Getty Images
The other option of Suzuki could be ideal for Dovizioso, and the Japanese team. Dovizioso has proven he is capable of helping a team to move towards the front and is reliable in achieving race results, something that Suzuki could benefit from in comparison to the perceived inconsistency of Andrea Iannone as well as Dovizioso’s experience when compared to Alex Rins, the other Suzuki rider. For Dovizioso, it could very much be made to be his team. Although a concern could be the resources at Suzuki’s disposal and how they compare with Ducati’s. If Suzuki have less resources at their disposal, would Dovizioso struggle to help the team become a regular Grand Prix winner.
While it was thought at times the big 2019 rider news would come from perhaps whether Rossi would decide to continue or if Marquez might move away from Honda, it appears that one of the biggest stories of the 2019 rider market will be where Dovizioso ends up and what Ducati’s line up will finally be for the 2019 season.Embed from Getty Images