Alvaro Bautista took his year-old Ducati to within 5.5s of victory, and 3s of the podium, in Sunday's German MotoGP.

That performance - which also saw him beat factory team riders Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso, and one place behind Pramac's Danilo Petrucci - came hot on the heels of another strong ride at Assen, where Bautista was 7.5s from the same race winner, Marc Marquez.

Yet it already looks too late to save Bautista's MotoGP career.

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Having matched the Aspar/Angel Nieto Team's best MotoGP result of fourth place last season, the Spaniard initially struggled to adjust to the GP17 during winter testing and the early races, while using the 'reference' Ducati set-up.

Radical changes at round four, Jerez, began the transformation - by which time many 2019 seats had already been decided. And as of Sachsenring, with over half the season to go, almost all of the seats look to be decided.

Assuming Marc VDS is closing its MotoGP doors and Takaaki Nakagami is staying at LCR, the only teams yet to announce next year's rider line-up are SIC Yamaha and Avintia Ducati.

The Angel Nieto Team is handing its grid places to the new Yamaha team and it’s a ride Bautista would doubtless love to get his hands on.

But the SIC seats are already rumoured to have gone to Franco Morbidelli and, it appears, recent Moto2 winner Fabio Quartararo. 

Avintia Ducati is said to be considering retaining Tito Rabat, while rookie team-mate Xavier Simeon was announced on a two-year deal until the end of 2019 although the second year could be in doubt due to a lack of any points.

Even so, it seems Bautista's well financed team-mate Karel Abraham (who, like Simeon, currently rides a two-year-old Ducati) is ahead of him in the potential Avintia queue.

All of which leaves Bautista 'with no bike for next year' and linked with a possible switch to the World Superbike championship. 

"Yeah, it's a frustration. Especially because in the third race everything closed for everybody," Bautista said of the early 2019 contract decisions.

"So you don’t have the chance to show your potential. 

"In our case we struggled a lot at the beginning, in the pre-season and the first races, but now we have the potential to fight for the podium.

"So for me, it's too soon [for teams'] to make the contract in the first three races. At least you have to wait seven or eight races.

"But now where can I go? So a top-five rider, with no bike for next year."

Reflecting on Sunday's race, the former Honda MotoGP podium finisher said:

"I'm happy. In Assen we did our best race in terms of performance, finishing only seven seconds behind the leader. Today we reduced the gap to five seconds so that's the important thing and my feeling was really good during the race."

Bautista added that his base set-up is now so refined he barely needs to touch the bike.

"Basically during all the pre-season we took the Ducati reference. But… nothing. In Jerez we changed to the opposite, like we did in the last years. I started to feel the bike, the tyres and have more confidence. 

"From Jerez to here we changed only small details but for example in Assen and here from FP1 to the race we didn’t touch the suspension. 

"That's always a good sign. When you have to change a lot that means that the base is not correct. But now we never change anything, so it means we are improving because I have more confidence in the bike. I start to feel more the tyres. 

"We struggled with qualifying in the beginning, but now it's two races where we go directly to Qualifying 2. And improving every time.

"So I think this is the way to go faster and I hope for the next races to stay at the same level or improve."

Bautista is now up to 13th in the world championship, 13 points behind fellow GP17 rider Jack Miller.
 

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