As was widely expected, 2021 MotoGP championship runner-up Pecco Bagnaia has extended his contract with Ducati for another two years.
The 25-year-old Italian is now set to remain with the team until at least the end of the 2024 season, in a deal that comes as no surprise after recent comments made by Ducati’s management.
Bagnaia has been widely expected to remain a part of the Bologna manufacturer’s line-up given just how strong his 2021 campaign was, and was all but confirmed by team boss Davide Tardozzi last week at the conclusion of pre-season testing at Indonesia’s new Mandalika Bay circuit.
“Pecco is a rider that we would like to keep in the family,” said Tardozzi at testing.
“We are still discussing a few matters, but we want him, he wants to stay, and finally it’s possible that we can find a solution.”
It seems like that solution has now been found, with very little in the way of negotiation needed to secure Bagnaia’s name on paper as he continues a Ducati legacy that started before he was even racing, with his father and uncle long-time Ducati tifosi.
The two-year deal extension is a sign of Ducati’s confidence in Bagnaia’s long-term future with it, deviating as it does from the team’s usual way of awarding contracts.
Ducati has broken from the MotoGP norm in recently years by handing even its factory riders only one-year deals with an option for the second year, so going straight to a two-year deal with Bagnaia is perhaps a hint of how much faith it’s placing in him.
“Being a Ducati rider in MotoGP has always been my dream, and knowing that I can continue with the Ducati Lenovo team for another two seasons makes me happy and proud,” said Bagnaia.
“I have found a serene environment in the factory team. I feel very much in tune with my team and know that we can do great things together.
“Now I can only concentrate on doing well in this championship. A big thank you to Claudio [Domenicali], Gigi [Dall’Igna], Paolo [Ciabatti], Davide and all the Ducati Corse staff. I’ll try to repay their trust with my results on the track.”
It’s a sensible decision for both parties, of course, given that Bagnaia has shown potential already on the Desmosedici that few others since Casey Stoner have been able to match.
Putting together a strong second half of 2021 to challenge for the title, albeit too little too late to take on Fabio Quartararo, he’s set to start 2022 as perhaps the leading title contender.
Signing up the easy choice for its lead rider role so early also means that Ducati is now free to concentrate on who will sit alongside Bagnaia next year, which is a wholly more complicated proposition.
That seat is currently held by Australian Jack Miller, himself a race winner in 2021, but it’s looking increasingly like his position is far less assured thanks in large part to the meteoric rise of Jorge Martin.
A rookie race winner last season for satellite Ducati team Pramac Racing, Martin’s already been up front about his desire to join the factory team – and should his form from last year continue in the early part of 2022, it could well be that Miller is left hunting for a job.
Where that seat would be is something of a question mark, given the relative lack of other factory options for him on the grid.
Only one seat already remains at Yamaha, Honda and KTM, and with Aprilia also looking content with its current squad, it could well mean that Miller’s time as a factory rider has lasted a mere two seasons.
Of course, there is always a chance that a place could be found for Miller elsewhere in Ducati’s line-up, a strategy that we’ve seen it use before.
But with an influx of young talent – like Enea Bastianini and Luca Marini – for the first time in the brand’s time in MotoGP, even that isn’t as sure a bet as it would have been as recently as a few seasons ago.