Ducati is keeping tabs on Franco Morbidelli and Francesco Bagnaia – two of Italy’s most exciting prospects – as well as Moto3 world champion Joan Mir, as the factory seeks out the latest budding star for its ‘Junior’ MotoGP team, according to Paolo Ciabatti.

The Bologna factory’s sporting director was referencing recent speculation after Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport had reported on Sunday that an agreement has already been reached between 21-year old Bagnaia and Pramac Ducati for 2019.

Rather than comment directly on the possibility of Bagnaia’s signing, Ciabatti instead revealed that Ducati was keeping a close eye on the Italian starlet, who enjoyed an impressive Moto2 rookie campaign last year, as well as Moto2 world champion Morbidelli (23) and Mir (20).

“When I was asked out of the younger, coming riders I think Franco Morbidelli already did an incredible season and he’s moved to MotoGP. We will see his performance this year.

“From the other riders we think Bagnaia is a promising rider and definitely Joan Mir did a fantastic season last year. We need to see what he does in Moto2.

“If I had to say three names of young riders that might be interesting for our future, they would be Morbidelli, Bagnaia and Mir without getting started in negotiations.”

Pramac added Australian Jack Miller (22) to its ranks for 2018, while Danilo Petrucci (27) – four times a podium finisher last year – will begin his fourth year with the Italian team at the end of this month. Ciabatti’s comments and recent speculation suggest one of those names could move on for 2019.

The Italian went on to outline Pramac’s role in the factory’s plans, as well as explaining Ducati’s monitoring the situations of all three riders.

“It’s obviously when you think some riders are interesting, you try to understand which situations they are in, which commitments they have for the future because this is the basics of thinking. If someone decides that in five years, they are a potential rider for you, it’s useless,” he said.

“So to do properly our job, we need to understand the situation of these riders and then we can think about our future. As I said, it’s a future probably more for Pramac. The task of Pramac is to be the MotoGP Junior Team.

“I mean, this is why we signed Danilo, Scott [Redding] and Jack – in order to put them in a very professional team with very good material, either the same bike as the factory riders or just one step below, and with a very competent team. Most of the technical management is done by Ducati Corse engineers.

“Sometimes it works, like with Danilo. Obviously we were happy with his achievements. Sometimes it doesn’t, like with Scott. We couldn’t get the results that we had hoped for. He had a fantastic beginning on a Ducati when he was testing at Jerez in 2015 but things didn’t really go the way we or he expected.

“But this is why we have such a close relationship with Pramac. Any new riders would come first in the Pramac team and then we will see if we can do the ‘Iannone thing’ – moving him from the Pramac team to the factory team.”



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