Miller happy to help Bagnaia 'whichever way I can' in title quest

If the opportunity arises, Jack Miller will help team-mate Bagnaia in his quest to catch MotoGP title leader Fabio Quartararo. Not concerned by Morbidelli's switch in terms of teams' and constructors' battle.
Jack Miller, Francesco Bagnaia, Aragon MotoGP, 11 September 2021
Jack Miller, Francesco Bagnaia, Aragon MotoGP, 11 September 2021
© Gold and Goose

With his own title hopes effectively over, Jack Miller is prepared to help team-mate Francesco Bagnaia's MotoGP title challenge in the remaining rounds.

Bagnaia, who won his first MotoGP race last Sunday at Aragon, is now second in the world championship but still 53 points from Yamaha's Fabio Quartararo.

Miller has won two races for Ducati this season but also suffered three non-scores leaving him fifth and 85 points from the top. There are five rounds and a potential 125 points to go, starting this weekend at Misano.

"I'd love to get myself on the rostrum [riders' title top 3]," Miller said at Misano on Thursday. "I need to keep plugging away at it and try to take the best out of any situation we get.

"Pecco's doing a fantastic job and caught back some decent points on Fabio the other day, so it's definitely not out of the question for him. And, as I've said all along; I'm here, I'm a team player and I'm happy to help out whichever way I can.

"Not saying anything bad or anything like that, but if I can see an opportunity to try and help Pecco I'll definitely try and do that and that's our plan. At the end of the day, we are here to try and get the big red beast on top."

Ducati vs. Yamaha for Teams' and Constructors' titles

While Bagnaia still faces a formidable task in the riders' title, Ducati leads Yamaha by eight points in the constructors' standings and has closed to within 19-points of Monster Yamaha in the teams' championship.

With those battles in mind, Miller was asked how he feels about the Petronas-to-Monster Yamaha team switch for Franco Morbidelli.

The Italian began this season at the satellite team, but has now been moved to the Factory outfit as a full-time replacement for Maverick Vinales. That also means Morbidelli upgrades from the 2019 bike he started the season on, to the ex-Vinales 2021 factory-spec.

Putting aside Morbidelli's fitness following knee surgery, with Quartararo the only Monster Yamaha rider to score points in the three rounds since Vinales' exit, the arrival of title runner-up Morbidelli and his machinery upgrade means - on paper - Ducati now faces a tougher task in the teams' and constructors' than if Morbidelli had to finish the season at Petronas (due to the engine rules, see below). has been told that Morbidelli's team switch was given the green light since Vinales' is no longer under contract to Yamaha (and now racing for Aprilia), meaning Morbidelli's move was treated as a normal rider-replacement situation.

Nonetheless, it raises interesting questions given the rules covering engine specification and engine use.

Engine use

The MotoGP rules state "Each rider must nominate, before the first event of the season, one specification of approved engine to be used exclusively for the season."

Until now the only circumstances in which a full-time rider has changed engine specification during a season is by changing their brand of bike, for example when Johann Zarco left KTM and finished the season at LCR Honda.

It has never been allowed, for example, for a satellite rider using an older engine spec to be upgraded to his factory's newest spec engine during a racing season.

Morbidelli's situation is thus the first time that a 'contracted' MotoGP rider when changing teams remains with the same factory and upgrades his engine spec mid-season.

The move and engine upgrade also benefits (on paper) that factory's chances of winning the teams' and constructors' titles.

Engine allocation

Five engine changes are allowed per rider, per season (seven for concession manufacturer Aprilia).

But because the number of engine changes is fixed to the bike not rider, the MotoGP rule makers know that shuffling riders within a team or factory line-up mid-season could be used to dodge penalties for extra engine changes.

For example, if a factory's leading rider was running low on engines after technical issues, by swapping that rider's official entry with a team-mate, or moving the rider into a satellite team, they could leave their engine problems behind by taking over another bike's engine allocation.

As such, the MotoGP rules state: "A replacement rider may not be a rider currently contracted in the Championship, unless approved by the Grand Prix Commission to avoid that such substitution may be motivated by reasons other than sporting or medical (circumventing engine allocation rules, etc.)."

Miller admitted a rider switching teams mid-season for the same factory might be something to look at, but doesn't think winning the Triple Crown was Yamaha's motivation for the move and he's just happy to see Morbidelli back in action.

"Nah, I don’t think so," Miller replied, when asked if he thought Ducati now faced a bigger disadvantage in its fight with Yamaha due to the Yamaha reshuffle. "I think if we have to look at anything [it would be the] in-house switching, I can understand a complete swap of manufacturers is different. But it is what it is.

"It's good to have sort of everyone back on the grid apart from poor old Sava [Savadori, ankle fracture]. That's a positive thing.

"I could be wrong but I don’t feel Franky as a threat [in the teams' and constructors' titles] let's say. At this point he's had quite a bit of time off. He's nursing an injury. And I don’t think even Monster Yamaha are putting any pressure on him to do results.

"They are just happy to have him here and get him up to speed on where the 2021 bike has developed [over the 2019] for next season. It makes sense from that standpoint. I don’t think it has much to do with the championship side of things. But you never know…

"Our main focus is just to keep doing what we, Ducati, are doing. We're doing a fantastic job. I could have pulled my weight a little bit more at some point this year but anyway we've got some really good points.

"I was looking at the championship standings after Aragon and to see the team creeping closer and closer to Monster Yamaha is really nice and hopefully we can keep doing that because it'd be lovely.

"Already the constructors' title last year for Ducati was massive, so to get [the constructors' again and also give] Ducati Lenovo the teams' championship would be fantastic."

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