Danilo Petrucci has admitted the 2018 season will be his last for Pramac Ducati after learning of the factory’s interest in Italian starlet Francesco Bagnaia.

Speaking to Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport, Petrucci revealed he will not continue in the satellite squad for a fifth year, but has an option in his current contract to move to Ducati’s official team for ’18.

However, Ducati management used its MotoGP team launch in Bologna last week to state how its priority was to renew the contracts of current factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo in the coming months.

Furthermore, sporting director Paolo Ciabatti emphasised the importance of Pramac to act as Ducati’s ‘junior team’, to foster some of grand prix racing’s most exciting talent.

At 27 years old, Petrucci’s age may be a real factor in this decision, especially as new team-mate Jack Miller has recently turned 23.

“It’s important that 2019 started before 2018,” Petrucci is quoted as saying in the Gazzetta. “I read in the paper that I am already fired and that Bagnaia will take my place. Joking aside, Paolo Campinoti (Pramac team owner) and I were aware of this. He pulled me from nowhere [at the end of 2014].

“But we knew that this would be the last year together, the cycle is nearly completed. It is also the meaning of the Pramac project. I have a contract with Ducati, I have an option that expires in June to enter the official team, otherwise I will be free."

Should Peturcci’s option with Ducati’s factory team fail to materialise, he will be a free agent with former admirers Aprilia a possible destination for 2019.

The Noale factory showed an interest in the Terni rider's services mid-way through ’17 as it searched for a replacement for the out-of-favour Sam Lowes. After stirring performances at Mugello and Assen, Ducati moved promptly to sign Petrucci for another year.

“In 2017 the temptation to go to Aprilia was strong,” admitted Petrucci. “Becoming the rider of an Italian company attracted me a lot. But I did not want to end up in a different place. But after seven years in MotoGP the ambition is [to be a factory rider].

“I think everything will be decided at the first races and I do not find it very fair. If you sign after three GPs, you will do the 15 others with a different motivation. It puts a lot of pressure on."

The news comes soon after Petrucci’s most successful year in grand prix racing. The former CRT runner notched up four podium finishes in 2017 – the most by any satellite Ducati rider across a season – to claim eighth in the final world championship standings.

Ducati’s Ciabatti did admit the factory was keeping tabs on Bagnaia last week, but also mentioned the names of Moto2 world champion Franco Morbidelli and Moto3 champion Joan Mir as possibilities for the future.

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