Is Honda's 2011 line-up the best solution to Ducati's problem?

As the unofficial deadline of Mugello looms, the ongoing uncertainty over Francesco Bagnaia’s 2025 factory Ducati team-mate continues.

Dovizioso, Stoner, Pedrosa, 2011
Dovizioso, Stoner, Pedrosa, 2011

Marc Marquez, Jorge Martin or Enea Bastianini? This weekend’s Catalunya MotoGP is set to be the last event before Ducati makes its big decision over Francesco Bagnaia’s 2025 MotoGP team-mate at Mugello.

Or is the decision already made?

“There's a difference between announcing a decision and making a decision,” MotoGP editor Pete McLaren said on this week’s MotoGP podcast. 

“We've heard this Mugello date for a while now. Gigi's mentioned it and I think he's also used the phrase that it's the ‘sporting thing to do’ because he wants the riders that are let down to have time to find other seats if they wish.

“That is a very sporting thing to do. But I also think if they are announcing at Mugello it's because they already know what they want. If you look back at Dovi in 2020, even the final Bastianini and the Martin decision a couple of years back, those did run on and on until quite late in the year.

“So Ducati in the past, if they're not sure, they will wait. So the fact that they are saying Mugello, which is back-to-back with Catalunya this weekend, I think tells you they already know who they want.

“Gigi is obviously a great engineer. So he's a data guy. He's a numbers guy. He'll be looking at the results and performances - and presumably, he's seen enough.”

Podcast host Jordan Moreland replied: “How difficult do you think it is for Ducati to compare someone like Martin, who they’ve seen develop over a couple of years, with someone like Marquez, who has only done a few rounds with them?

"They're going to be trying to predict the performance curve of each rider: How steep is it? Where do they think it is going to go from here? What level will each rider be at by, let's say, the start of next year?" McLaren said.

“It’s difficult isn’t it because you’ve got one guy, Jorge Martin, who's still very young and in fantastic form. What more could he do at the moment? He's won a couple of Grands Prix, he's won Sprint races, he's leading the World championship. He's beating the guy that Ducati has already signed, Pecco, while at a satellite team.

“But then Marc is fighting with these guys on a year-old bike, after only 5 Grand Prix on a Ducati. So where will his performance curve go? And of course, those words by Gigi about looking at the histories of the riders has made everybody's ears prick up because there's one rider on the grid who has more history than any other!

“In a perfect world, if you're Ducati, you want to keep both. That's your dream goal. You've got Bagnaia. If you could keep Martin and Marquez as well for next year, all on factory bikes, what a line-up!

“And who knows with Bastianini, maybe he would be happier, for example, doing a swap with Marquez and going back to Gresini where he won races and looked really comfortable.

“So potentially you could keep all these guys, but only if you sign Martin to the factory team. Because if you sign Marc to the factory team, Martin's gone, if we take Martin at his word. He's not going to hang around and be a satellite rider for any more years.

“Marc’s not been quite as clear about his ‘red lines’ but it sounds like there is a decent chance he would stay at Ducati on a factory bike at a satellite team.

“So if you’re Ducati, and you want to keep all these guys, the only way you can have a chance of that is to sign Martin for the factory team.”

Moreland added: “The only Ducati rider other than Pecco who has signed at the moment is Fermin Aldeguer, and we still don’t know where he will go. Especially with Pramac yet to confirm they will even stay with Ducati. 

"Then there’s the knock-on from whether or not Aleix Espargaro continues racing at Aprilia and who might move in there.

“Our listeners have been leaving their opinions, some saying Martin to the factory Ducati team, others that they’ll give Marquez the ride after Gigi mentioned the history of the riders.

“But there’s no doubt that looking from the commercial side, Marquez is still a box office draw and towers over the rest of the grid in that respect. You only have to see how many Gresini shirts there are in the crowd this year.”

“Marc has massive star power, massive marketing power and Ducati has got to weigh up everything. But you don't want to lose Martin either! And this is where you're trying to balance all these spinning plates almost," McLaren replied.

“I think the best solution you could realistically get, taking into account the marketing, would be to put Marc on a factory-liveried, factory-spec bike in the Gresini team, as they don't have a title sponsor.

“So he's on a red Ducati. It looks just like the factory bikes. A bit like when Pirro does a wild-card. And if he wins the championship, you still get all the marketing appeal of Marquez being in full Ducati red.

“It would give that visual connection with the official Ducatis and be the nearest you could get now to when Repsol Honda ran three bikes for Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso - to solve their rider line-up problem - in 2011."

Read More