“Ducati has lost an important asset with the departure of Andrea Dovizioso,” says sports director Paolo Ciabatti. “But he said he had already got the most out of this collaboration.”
Ducati and Andrea Dovizioso achieved second place in the MotoGP World Championship three times in a row between 2017 and 2019, behind the outstanding Marc Márquez. In addition, the now 35-year-old Italian won a total of 14 Grand Prix on the Desmosedici. But things have gone downhill in recent years: six wins in 2017, then four in 2018, two in 2019, this year it only worked out at the Austrian GP, on a fast track that only Ducati had at the first five MotoGP events. Victories.
Dovizioso improved enormously after the 2016 season. Although he inflicted defeats on Marquez in five wheel-to-wheel duels in recent years; these duels were often only decided in the final corner. Nonetheless, Ducati was always looking for another exceptional talent. That is why Rossi was hired for 2011 and 2012, and Philip Morris offered him an annual fee of 17 million euros for a third year. But he preferred to return to Yamaha. For 2017 and 2018 the Ducati bosses Claudio Domenicali and Gigi Dall’Igna hired the Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo for a total of 25 million euros. He ran away after two years – and angrily went to Repsol-Honda.
In terms of talent, Dovizioso may never have been one of the greats, who until the resignation of Dani Pedrosa at the end of 2018 consisted of Márquez, Rossi, Pedrosa and Viñales. But Dovi has improved enormously with a lot of effort and diligence. For years he was Ducati’s only hope for the title, also in 2020. After all, he made fourth place in the World Championship and remained the best Ducati rider again, he might have been in 2021 too.
But now they are parting ways after eight years.
Dovizioso manager Simone Battistella cannot shake off the suspicion that Dovi may have fallen victim to a plot. He suspects Ducati wanted to get rid of the number 04 right from the start and that he was no longer optimally looked after in 2020. He’s also wondering why Ducati didn’t try to get the points removed from the Drivers’ Championship after the blown valve scandal in Jerez, after Quartararo and Viñales secured a Yamaha one-two there.
Did Ducati want to save bonus money with Dovi and simply get rid of him as a failed title favorite without overly scaring off the loyal Ducatisti, as Battistella speculates?
We may never know the truth. Unless Dovizioso pours out his heart after December 31st, after the Ducati contract expires.
Paolo Ciabatti joined Ducati in 2013 at the same time as Dovizioso; at that time he took over the role of sports director for the MotoGP and Superbike World Championships.
It’s no secret that Dovi and Ciabatti have become good friends, even with team manager Davide Tardozzi, Dovi never really had trouble, more with Domenicali and Dall’Igna, with the latter at least after his criticism of the motorcycle at the Sachsenring GP 2019.
Before the start of the season in spring 2020, Ciabatti stated in a SPEEDWEEK.com interview that Ducati wanted to keep Dovizioso for a year or two longer. He could complete the ten years at Desmosedici and become the rider behind Dani Pedrosa (13 years with Repsol-Honda) who is the second longest non-stop for the same brand in the MotoGP World Championship.
But nothing came of it. On August 15 in Spielberg, Battistella announced the separation at the end of the year.
“We hoped that we could continue with Andrea”, emphasizes Paolo Ciabatti in the current Christmas interview with SPEEDWEEK.com. «That was the goal before the start of the season. Then came the Covid situation and the lockdown. There was uncertainty about the championship. Nobody knew if it could ever start in 2020. The situation got very complicated as you can imagine. Without a punctual start to the season and without knowing when and whether it could start, we had to adjust our budget. You could soon work out that there would be fewer races and no spectators, plus no team guests. So the scenario changed for our partners and sponsors who cut their donations. We had to renegotiate all deals and accept cuts in grants. Because there were only 13 MotoGP events at first, Portugal was added later. I assume that all other plants and teams were also affected by budget cuts. This problem even has an impact on the 2021 season. The outlook for the coming season suggests further concerns. Because normality will not return in a few months. The economy will not recover overnight. Covid has affected the entire global economy. “
“So we have renegotiated the driver’s fees for 2020 and also taken measures for 2021”, explains Ciabatti. “We had to be sure that our 2021 budget would be affordable and sustainable, if difficult times continue to haunt us, possibly even for a few years. “So we discussed a plan to reduce wages in 2020 with all of our works drivers. On the one hand, there was a threat of a decline in the number of units sold by our motorcycles, and we also had to accept a reduction in sponsorship funds. Of course, Andrea was hardest hit by the cuts, he was our highest paid driver. But in the end we found a satisfactory solution for both parties. Each of our drivers has waived the same percentage of their fee. With Andrea the absolute amount was of course the highest. “
According to information from SPEEDWEEK.com, Dovizioso originally had a fee of 4 million euros for 2020, he is said to have waived around 30 to 40 percent.
Before the start of the season in July, the Ducati managers already had in mind what fee they could offer Dovi for 2021.
A sum of 2 million could then be heard, half of the amount once agreed for 2020.
Ducati wanted to bring the new agreement with Dovizioso through June or July 2020; no later than August. Ciabatti: “I then gave Simone Battistella a hint about the financial leeway we have for Andreas 2021 salary. I haven’t made a specific offer, just given an approximate amount. Andrea and Simone did not want to accept this suggestion. So we said we’d wait to see how things develop in the World Cup. We would have waited for five Grand Prix if the Qatar season had started on time in March. So we suggested we talk again after the fifth Grand Prix at the end of August. We wanted to see the drivers on the slopes first. It’s true that in the meantime we have confirmed Jack Miller’s commitment to the works team. Because with him the question of money was easier to manage. We also thought that after three years at Pramac, he’d earned a promotion to the works team. Because he has talent, because he is almost 26 years old, and because we believe in him. At the same time, we informed Danilo Petrucci early on that we would not continue with him. So he and his manager Alberto Vergani were able to look for other offers early in May. ”
So Petrucci signed with KTM and will compete in Tech3-KTM in 2021.
Dovizioso was put off.
There was probably the justified hope that the Italian would soon find no other lucrative place in a works team and would therefore be forced to accept the Ducati deal.
But Dovizioso threw the clutter down.
So Ducati has lost its best MotoGP rider in the last four years and Dovi has become unemployed.
It has not yet been possible to assess whether Dovi will be a possible Marc Márquez replacement at Repsol-Honda. It depends on the eight-time world champion’s recovery progress.
“Andrea and Simone decided not to wait for our decision for various reasons,” is Ciabatti’s conclusion. “When this news was communicated in Spielberg, we were of course not surprised because we had been informed beforehand that they did not want to wait for the second race in Austria. We thought this decision was a little strange, but we had to accept it. We had cleared our financial possibilities and wanted to wait a little longer to understand which driver choice would be the best for Ducati’s future. “
But Dovizioso said a new Ducati contract would no longer be advantageous for him.
“There were critical moments between Andrea, Ducati and Gigi after the Sachsenring GP 2019”, Ciabatti is aware. “Andrea was now of the opinion that he could no longer achieve anything with Ducati. Ducati felt that we were losing an important asset. But we also suspected that if the contract were extended, no better results would be achieved. “
The Ducati sports director wants to maintain the friendship with the 15-time GP winner in the future. Is he disappointed with the breakup? «I wouldn’t say disappointed. But for my part, I’m sorry that a collaboration that has meanwhile brought us 14 MotoGP victories together is coming to an end. But sometimes a manufacturer needs fresh blood and a racing driver a new drive. If one of the participants thinks that they have got the most out of this cooperation, it makes sense to say ‘Arrivederci’, to maintain a good relationship and to take a new direction. To be honest: I think we had reached that point. “
Andrea Dovizioso’s MotoGP career
2008: World Cup 5th on SCOT-Honda, 174 points
2009: World Cup 6. on Repsol Honda, 160 points, 1 GP victory
2010: World Cup 5th on Repsol-Honda, 206 points
2011: World Cup 3rd on Repsol-Honda, 228 points
2012: World Cup 4th on Tech3-Yamaha, 218 points
2013: World Cup 8. on Ducati, 140 points
2014: World Cup 5th on Ducati, 187 points
2015: World Cup 7. on Ducati, 162 points
2016: World Cup 5th on Ducati, 171 points, 1 GP victory
2017: WM-2. on Ducati, 261 points, 6 GP victories
2018: WM-2. on Ducati, 245 points, 4 GP victories
2019: World Cup 2. on Ducati, 269 points, 2 GP victories
2020: World Cup 4. on Ducati, 135 points, 1 GP victory