Rinaldi, who had a shocking run of results at Assen last time out, was back amongst the top times in FP1 of the Catalunya WorldSBK round.

The Aruba.it Ducati rider set the pace ahead of Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu, while also finishing over a tenth clear of world champion and current teammate Alvaro Bautista. 

But although Rinaldi was back to his best, consistency is still lacking which could open the door for Ducati to look at other options for next season, and in particular Axel Bassani.

However, Rinaldi is not worried so long as he performs at his best: "For me, it’s too early to talk about 2024, as we’ve only done three rounds. In the factory team, you need results, but everyone is like me and in the same situation. 

"I’m not worried; I know we can be at the front all the time. Assen has been one round that we need to understand what happened, but it’s one race apart. This year, I’m stronger than last year, so I’m not worried. I will try to do my best, with more podiums and try to win a race. 

"I think all the grid want my bike so I’m not worried about Axel, Danilo or Nicolo! Nicolo is doing great in WorldSSP and I wish him all the best to win the championship as he’s a good guy and he deserves it. 

"If I do my job, I won’t lose my seat; it’s all on my shoulders and not the results of others."

That said, Rinaldi has just seen Bautista renew his contract with the factory team for next season, which rules him out from taking over the position of team leader.

It also means there’s just one seat up for grabs, thus increasing the chances that he could lose his seat if Ducati finds a better alternative in their eyes. 

Bassani is hoping to be the alternative mentioned although he will consider leaving Ducati if he's not given a factory ride: "We are really close to the podium and I hope to continue on this path and defend my fourth place in the championship. I hope I can get the podium, but there are really strong riders. 

"From my side, I try to push 100% to get a factory bike. To try and battle for a championship, you need a factory bike. 

"I hope the factory team starts to watch me and after, calls me! I want a factory Ducati. 

"It’s my first goal. If it’s not possible to go to the factory Ducati, I’m happy to go to another factory."

Can Bulega become a contender for Rinaldi’s WorldSBK seat?

Perhaps third on the list of contenders most likely to usurp Rinaldi from the factory team behind Bassani and Danilo Petrucci, is current series leader in WorldSSP, Nicolo Bulega.

Yet, the Italian can’t be ruled out as he’s been superb to start the 2023 season and we’ve seen riders go on to win the Superposrt title previously before being promoted into a factory team - Andrea Locatelli was the last to do so in 2020 when he joined Pata Yamaha. 

Speaking about his desire to join WorldSBK.com, Bulega said: "I think, if I continue to be first in WorldSSP, my target is trying to get to WorldSBK because I think this is normal. 

"If you win the first category, then, I think, you have to go to the second one. At the moment, no, but I would like to stay with Aruba because I think they are a very good team, and also Ducati. 

"They took me from Moto2 at a bad moment in my career because I didn’t finish my career there in a good way, but they believed in me; they gave me a very good team and a very good bike. 

"I would like to stay with them and try to make my first year in WorldSBK."