Ducati has chosen Andrea Dovizioso to remain at its factory MotoGP team next season, alongside new signing Jorge Lorenzo.
Once news that reigning world champion Lorenzo would leave Yamaha for Ducati became official, the Italian manufacturer made clear its preference was to retain either Dovizioso or Andrea Iannone.
“It's never easy to take a decision like this one, especially when you have two great riders like the two Andreas in your team," admitted Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall'Igna. “We are very happy that Dovizioso has agreed to stay with us for the next two years, and together with him we can continue the successful work we began four years ago in order to reach the ambitious aims we have set for ourselves.
“We are sorry for Andrea Iannone, who at the end of the season will no longer be a part of the team. Andrea has carried out an important job in these years and has made a significant contribution to the development of the Ducati Desmosedici GP. For this reason we would like to thank him and we will provide him with our maximum commitment in the next rounds of the championship, in order to obtain the prestigious results that are for sure within his reach.”
The younger Iannone initially seemed most likely to stay, having finished fifth and top Desmosedici in last year's standings and with expectations of further progress during his second year at the factory team.
However there has been little to separate Dovizioso and Iannone in the five races so far this season, each taking one podium and failing to finish three other events
The critical difference is that Iannone has fallen due to his own mistakes, most notably wiping himself and Dovizioso from a double podium at the final turns in Argentina. Dovi's bad luck continued when he was torpedoed by Dani Pedrosa's bike in Austin, then suffered a technical failure at Jerez before an accident at Le Mans.
The similarity in speed, Iannone's errors, plus Lorenzo's likely preference for Dovizioso are likely to have swung the decision in the #4's favour.
“I am very satisfied to have reached this agreement with Ducati and to be able to continue the adventure begun back with them in 2013," Dovizioso said of his new two-year deal.
"In the last few years we have worked with a lot of commitment and we have succeeded in taking the Desmosedici GP to an excellent competitive level, and so I am convinced that soon we will obtain the satisfaction that we deserve.”
Iannone and Dovizioso are currently tenth and eleventh respectively in the world championship. Iannone's most likely 2017 options include a move to Suzuki, with Maverick Vinales set to confirm a switch to Yamaha in the coming days.
“Obviously I am sorry that my time with Ducati will draw to a close at the end of this season, but I am grateful to the Bologna manufacturer for the opportunity it has given me in the last few years," Iannone said.
"I made my MotoGP debut with Ducati and I have grown up with them, always succeeding in improving my level of performance. In the remaining races I will give my all, as I always do, because I am convinced that thanks to the competitiveness of the Desmosedici GP we can achieve some great results.”
Ducati is the first MotoGP factory team to confirm its 2017 rider line-up. Yamaha and Honda have so far officially announced Rossi and Pedrosa respectively, Suzuki is yet to announce any riders. KTM has one seat free alongside Bradley Smith while Aprilia needs a team-mate for Sam Lowes.