Ducati’s sporting director Paolo Ciabatti says the entire team has faith in Danilo Petrucci rediscovering his early 2019 season form and dismissed his downturn in results as connected to his 2020 contract renewal.

With Petrucci selected by Ducati as Jorge Lorenzo’s replacement at the factory team for 2019, he came into last season with pressure already on his shoulders but repaid the Italian manufacturer’s faith by delivering consistent top six finishes before a hat-trick of podiums between Le Mans and Catalunya highlighted by his maiden MotoGP win in a frantic Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.

Heading into the final round before the summer break, Petrucci was rewarded for his results with a contract extension for the next campaign but after returning from the mid-season pause he endured a nightmare run of results.

Over the final 10 races of the year Petrucci’s best effort came at Silverstone with seventh place, boosted by both Ducati team-mate Andrea Dovizioso and Petronas Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo crashing out of the British Grand Prix at the first corner.

The Italian’s run of results saw him slip to sixth place in the final MotoGP riders’ standings having been a top three contender during the summer break. His drop in results duly cranked up the pressure on his place with speculation brewing he would be replaced at the factory team by Jack Miller.

Ducati’s Ciabatti described Petrucci’s start to 2019 as “perfect” which justified his contract renewal but dismissed his subsequent downturn in performances as a coincidence with signing his 2020 deal.

“I think the that fact Danilo’s performance were not the same after he signed the contract was just a coincidence. Last year Jorge [Lorenzo] started winning with Ducati after deciding to switch manufacturers. So I think it is just a coincidence,” Ciabatti said in Valencia.

“Danilo started the season in the perfect way and then he had three podiums in sequence, winning a fantastic race in Mugello and also did a good race in Sachsenring. But then after the summer break something changed and obviously we are working with him to try to find and give him the confidence that he had in the first part of the season.”

With the crux of Petrucci’s performance woes focused on tyre wear over a race distance, a weakness the majority of Ducati riders faced throughout the season, Ciabatti is confident his team’s GP20 bike will help resolve the problem which he hopes will lead to restoring the Italian rider’s confidence for 2020.

“We know he has a peculiar riding style, mainly because of his size and weight, so in certain conditions he suffers more than other riders with tyre wear,” he said. “We struggle in general when there is a low level of grip.

“We think Danilo is a rider who is capable of fighting for podiums and winning races, we just need to work with him and try to bring him back to what he showed and what he was able to do at the beginning of the season.

“We have confidence in him, and we will work with him next year to try to bring him back to where he was in the first part of 2019.”

Ciabatti also sees Ducati’s expansion to four latest-specification factory machines on the 2020 MotoGP grid as a way to benefit all riders with the wider base of data and feedback with the GP20. Both factory Ducati riders and both Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia will compete with GP20 bikes this season.

“Next year we will field four factory bikes and obviously we are working 360 degrees,” he explained. “This year we had some advantages at some points, especially in top speed, and we could see that Honda has closed the gap, so we need to keep working and to close the gap.

“We still have some areas where we need more improvement, but our engineers are working 360 degrees on the bike to see if we can improve the turning on the bike, that would be very welcomed.”

All of the Ducati riders currently have deals which expire at the end of the 2020 season.

 

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