Ducati insists the future of Jorge Lorenzo has yet to be decided, with a decision regarding the Majorcan’s future likely to be made after the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, according to Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti.

At Le Mans the Italian told Crash.net that Lorenzo, his management and factory bosses agreed to wait until the first three European races of the season passed to assess the five-time world champion’s progress on Ducati’s GP18.

Should Lorenzo prove incapable of challenging “for the position he deserves” and “positions Ducati wants from a rider at his level,” their two-year working relationship could come to an end at the close of 2018. It would be “pointless to go on and on” if the expected results are not soon forthcoming, Ciabatti said.

Speculation regarding Lorenzo’s future intensified at the French Grand Prix, where he could do no better than a distant sixth place, behind satellite riders Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller, two men with whom Ducati has options to place in the factory team alongside the recently re-signed Andrea Dovizioso in '19, should the #99 leave.

Ciabatti said the current situation with Lorenzo is “even worse” than the end of last season, a year in which he failed to score a single grand prix win. He also feels his rider would not be willing to continue running in red if he is incapable of fighting at the front of upcoming grand prix.

“If this chemistry doesn’t start to work at the level we expect, which is fighting for winning races, fighting for podiums, then I don’t think it’s a good idea to continue,” Ciabatti said.

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“I think what we decided with Jorge and with his management is to wait until after Mugello,” Ciabatti told Crash.net on Sunday evening. “Obviously at the end of last season was very promising, the Sepang test was fantastic. Then the Thailand test was a disaster and then some ups and downs. He was very competitive in Jerez. Unfortunately that accident probably took away a podium from him and Andrea.

“Here he was doing a great first nine laps and then losing lap-by-lap and finishing sixth. As he said in his press conference he is struggling with the ergonomics and the position of the bike, with the shape of the tank. They are things that can be fixed; we already worked on those, but in the end [it was] not enough because he cannot ride at the same rhythm for the whole race.

“In today’s MotoGP with so many fast riders, who can be lapping very close to each other, and very fast, you need to be able to be consistent for the whole race distance.

“Having said so, what we said is, let’s do the first three European races and then we will sit together, and see, first of all, is he happy with the bike, is he able to fight for the position that he deserves, and also is he able to fight for the positions that Ducati wants from a rider at his level. I think it’s pointless to go on and on and on and make something work if it doesn’t work.

‘This approach is positive on both sides. I think on the other side even Jorge isn’t happy to continue if he still keeps struggling and is not able to fight for winning races. He won so many grand prix in his career that last year was the first year when he didn’t win a single race. So far the situation is even worse.”

Suzuki’s interest in Lorenzo has been well documented in recent weeks and speculation in the Spanish press suggests the Hamamatsu factory is leaning toward hiring Moto3 world champion Joan Mir for '19.

Should that happen, Lorenzo’s choices beyond Ducati would decrease further.

“Then we will talk about the financial side, which is also equally important. This is not the first thing. This is the second thing we will discuss because if we see that for whatever reason, this chemistry doesn’t start to work at the level we expect, which is fighting for winning races, fighting for podiums, then I don’t think it’s a good idea to continue.”

Both Petrucci and Miller sounded confident regarding their chances of securing a place in Ducati’s factory team in France. Incidentally, both enjoyed fine races with Petrucci equalling his best MotoGP result with second, and Miller securing “by far my best dry result ever” with fourth.

Petrucci said, “At this moment, I think it [his French podium] is helpful [to secure a factory seat]” while Miller offered, “The decision I guess is entirely up to Ducati. For me, I’m content. Of course, like I’ve said all along, I’d love to be in that spot. But either way I’m going to be on the same bike next year, with or without the contract, but of course it’s every rider’s dream to be on a factory team. I would love to get there. We’ll see what happens.”

Soon after the Moto2 outing at Le Mans, Mir’s manager, Paco Sanchez, told reporters three manufacturers (Suzuki, Honda and Ducati) were interested in attaining his rider’s services for 2019.

Asked about the possibility of signing Mir, Ciabatti said Ducati was interested in the 20-year old, but admitted it could not offer a place in its factory team, a position Suzuki and Honda could do.

“Obviously, yes [we are interested], but we also must be realistic," he said. "We have Jorge, who obviously is a rider we’re still considering for the future. We have Danilo, who did a fantastic race today. And we have Jack Miller. Both Danilo and Jack, they have an option with us.

“So we have signed Pecco Bagnaia. Obviously in principle we would like to have as many promising riders as possible under contract, but then you also need to be able to offer them a good technical package. As far as I understand, from the rumours in the paddock, the options that Mir has at the moment are with two factory teams.

“We cannot even think about offering him a seat in the factory team for the next year, because of the situation you know very well. He will have a great future, but I think Pecco Bagnaia will have a great future. And having Pecco under contract already, the plan is to let him do next season on a GP18 bike with Pramac. I don’t think we can consider off Joan something better.

“This paddock is very small, it’s very difficult to keep secrets, but as far as I understand the management is talking to two factory teams and the decision will be taken very soon. Definitely we think Joan Mir is one of the riders that will have a brilliant future in MotoGP but I don’t think we’re in a position to offer him something in line with the couple of offers we understand he already has.”

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