Danilo Petrucci knows he will be leaving the Pramac team at the end of the 2018 MotoGP season, but that doesn't automatically mean he is out of Ducati.

The Italian has an option to join the factory team, should Ducati want him, in 2019.

Unfortunately for Petrucci, Ducati has stated its preferred plan is to retain Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo.

But, as Petrucci pointed out, if he can be quicker than one of them in the early rounds, it could swing things in his favour.

"First of all, I'm happy for Pecco," said Petrucci, referring to young countryman Francesco Bagnaia, who is inheriting his factory contract at Pramac in 2019.

"Anyway, I cannot say I'm out of [Ducati]. 90% yes, but this year more than ever Pramac are pushing for me to get into the factory team.

"We talk, but not seriously yet, with Ducati and we can only wait for the races to begin.

"For Ducati, the main thing is to have these two riders [Dovizioso and Lorenzo], but if I am faster than one of them I have some chance…"

Helping Petrucci's challenge is that, although he also had a latest spec Ducati last season, that bike had something of an experimental engine and the Italian suffered a string of technical issues in-between his four podiums.

"This year is different," he explained.

"[My GP18] is very similar to the factory one - no experiment, not something strange - so I have more chance to [beat one of the factory riders and] go in the factory team.

"Last year I had a different engine. Not completely, but a very different engine. This year the bikes are the same.

"For sure I still have to do some testing for Ducati to try to [help] the work of the two factory riders, but 80% of the time it is useful for me as well. So yes, I'm like a test rider sometimes, but less than last year."

Part of the reason for the similarity in machinery is simply that the Desmosedici, which won six races in the hands of Dovizioso last year, is now more of a refined package.

"With the '18 engine we found more power and it's enough, at the moment. My situation last year was quite risky. I had a lot of retirements during the race and especially sometimes I stopped on track, so I lost a lot of practice time.

"This year, sincerely, we have completed all the test program with no broken things."

Petrucci heads into next weekend's season-opener having been the only rider to complete a full 22-lap race simulation on the final day of pre-season testing in Qatar.

At the end of that simulation, the Italian was within a second of his fastest lap during the run.

“I'm really happy with the long run. I managed to make a very good race simulation with soft tyres at the front and rear and this is a really positive, also because we made very few changes to the bike."

Petrucci, who said he "didn't look for a lap time, but that's not important" was ninth overall on the timesheets, five places behind Dovizioso and one place ahead of Lorenzo.

Team-mate Jack Miller, who has the Pramac team's 2017 Ducati, was eleventh quickest.

 

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