Andrea Dovizioso is close to finalising a contract renewal with Ducati for the 2019 and ’20 MotoGP seasons after positive developments in the days before the French Grand Prix.

The Italian spoke of an “improved situation” after talks with the Bologna factory had dragged on for a number of weeks without an apparent breakthrough. As recently as the Spanish GP in early May Dovizioso's comments had suggested he was frustrated with progress, stating, “We are open, we spoke with some other companies."

A handful of details are still under discussion, Dovizioso said, but with the arrival of Simone Battistella, his personal manager, to France on Thursday evening, he expects talks to continue with Ducati management in the coming days.

“We are a bit closer than before," he said. "The situation improved in the last few days. I’m happy because I found a lot of support from a lot of people. This is really good. This is really positive for me. I’m really happy about that.

“We will see. Still there remain some details. My manager will arrive tonight and he will continue to speak about that.”

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The 2017 runner up arrives in France after a test at Mugello, which was cut short by rain. Unlike team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, Dovizioso did not sample new parts, and instead spent his time focussing on perfecting set-up before the race there in June.

“Unfortunately we had just a half day to test because of the weather,” said the 32-year old. “But it was enough to test some set-up. That is the important thing when you’re doing that kind of test before the race. You can arrive through the weekend with a good idea where you have to go to improve some situations, and where you don’t have to go.

“We didn’t try something new and this was the only thing we did. I have a good feeling and the speed was quite good. But a lot of riders were really fast. The speed and the lap time was not too important.”

The French Grand Prix will be crucial for Dovizioso to attempt to regain ground on title rival Marc Marquez after the disastrous collision which abruptly ended his promising showing at Jerez.

Is he concerned by the 24-point deficit to Marquez in the championship? “It’s very bad what happened in Jerez,” conceded Dovizioso. “Especially when you can get a lot of points. And especially at a bad track for us. So it was really, really, really bad, especially in the way, because I didn’t make a mistake.

“It was funny because from the riders, nobody did a mistake. Jorge didn’t make a mistake. Dani didn’t make a mistake. It was funny! [LOL] But at the end there is always some positive things. The speed was there. I’m really happy. I start from the back and I recovered a lot of positions and I was very close to Marc.

“So [I’m] really happy about that. It’s always really important that, when you’re doing that kind of weekend, because we were off the pace on Saturday, but we could fight for the podium on the Sunday. It’s very important for the future, to try to understand why we did that.”

So where did the improvement come from at Jerez, between a disastrous FP3 and a solid FP4?

“Sometimes when you’re doing a test, especially with different conditions, you can try a lot of things, you can understand the base of the set-up and the way to go,” came the reply.

“Sometimes you have some clear ideas, in the race weekend when the conditions are different, it can put you in a wrong way, a wrong situation. What happened for example, we decide not to use the fairing, because in the test we didn’t use and I was really fast. But it was different.

“After that we analysed all the small details. My team worked very well and they understood where we had to go to improve the situation and the fairing was the way. From Saturday afternoon our pace was there. I was very focussed so with that big change.

“It wasn’t a problem for me to adapt, because when you change the fairing you change the mind, the braking points, the exit… It’s not so easy and takes a little bit of time to use the best potential of the bike. So that was the reason.”

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