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Analysis

The elements that will determine who will be Ducati's second factory MotoGP rider

Ducati got the 2025 rider market rolling before the start of the current MotoGP season when it announced a new two-year deal for Francesco Bagnaia. The identity of his team-mate remains unknown right now and is one of the most intriguing plot points of the season, with a deadline on the decision looming and various factors to consider who will dress in red

Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing, Marc Marquez, Gresini Racing Team

Ducati has two MotoGP rounds now in 2024 to choose from a list of three - Jorge Martin, Marc Marquez and Enea Bastianini - as to who will be its second factory team rider next season, something which will be highly influenced by economic factors, sponsorship and the individual will of general manager Gigi Dall'Igna.

If we consider that all three candidates have sporting arguments to end up in the red suit in 2025, the previous elements are probably less obvious than raw speed, but no less important for the Borgo Panigale brand. Ducati is immersed in a process of cost containment imposed by parent company Audi.

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This environment of 'austerity' led the Italian manufacturer's executives to have to define their priorities, with Francesco Bagnaia's renewal as the most immediate objective. With the two-time world champion's future resolved, the next two folders are the selection of the rest of the riders who will race under factory contract - with special attention to the one who should become Bagnaia's team-mate - and the set-up of the satellite squads.

Bastianini, Martin and Marquez are going through different moments in their respective careers, and that leads them to value certain things over others. Bastianini, on paper the one who is at the biggest disadvantage, is in his second season in the factory garage and, for one reason or another, has not lived up to Ducati's expectations after it opted for him instead of Martin two years ago. The #23 rider has already made a move with a view to his future and Aprilia would be happy to take him on.

Martin, for his part, has already made it clear that it will be Ducati's works team or nothing at all, as he considers his time at Pramac to be over and believes he deserves a place in a factory squad. After the disappointment he suffered two years ago in being passed over for the factory team, having finished runner-up in the standings last year and starting this season better than anyone else, championship leader Martin does not know what else to do to make Ducati choose him.

And then there is Marquez with all he can bring, both on track and in the media. The sporting performance will be the key to knowing who ends up next to Bagnaia, but it will not be the only factor.

"We are trying to give all the riders the best possible material to put them in the best possible frame of mind for the upcoming races, which are crucial for them and for our choice. However, no matter how it goes, we will have to leave some important riders out of the equation. My legs are shaking just thinking about having to make this decision," said Dall'Igna on Sunday at Jerez, where Bagnaia and Marquez fought an explosive duel for the win - which the former won - and where Martin crashed while leading.

Bagnaia's new contract was a high price worth paying as Ducati looks to cut overall spending

Bagnaia's new contract was a high price worth paying as Ducati looks to cut overall spending

Photo by: Ducati Corse

Nowadays, at Ducati, almost all the important decisions go through Dall'Igna, in consensus with CEO Claudio Domenicali. And both in the offices of the Bolognese team, as well as in the garage, there is the conviction that the engineer is very excited to see Marquez wearing red. Last year, Ducati repeated time and again that it was not at all interested in the #93 rider.

However, if the Spaniard rides a Gresini Desmosedici, it is because Dall'Igna gave the go-ahead to the operation. Precisely for this reason, the individual will of the genius from Thiene plays a decisive role in the game of musical chairs that has been going on for a long time now. But there is more.

The policy of containing investment will also be fundamental, to the point of being able to eliminate some of the candidates. "One of my main tasks is to try to reduce investment a little, both in terms of riders and in the management of the satellite teams. In the past, we spent too much, and that will change now," commented Mauro Grassilli, Ducati's sporting director as of 2024, in a conversation with Autosport.

If we keep in mind that the Italian brand has set Bagnaia's base salary at around €6 million per year, the amount of money it has left to pay his team-mate is, logically, significantly lower. At this point, the rider who is more compromised is Martin, given that the conditions he negotiated in 2022 - plus those he has earned with the results - put him as one of the best-paid riders on the grid, with a figure of around €3.5m per season.

Should Ducati decide to sign him, there is a suspicion that he could even be offered a contract with a lower base salary than the one he is entitled to in 2024 - a difficult reduction for the #89 rider, who believes he is showing that he is in the best moment of his career.

The economic factor would be less compromising for Marquez, who in his lifetime has amassed more money than any of his colleagues, and who has set himself the goal of wearing the red overalls. "The plan is working well for me. When you achieve results, factories contact you. There have already been talks. I'm pretty clear about what I want, but the good thing is that I don't have just one option," said the six-time premier class champion, who returned to the podium in a dry race at Jerez for the first time since 2022.

Marquez claims to have completed his adaptation to the Desmosedici, an impression validated by what he has managed in recent races. In Austin, he crashed out while leading the race, as he did last Saturday in the sprint at the Spanish Grand Prix, before a delightful exchange of blows with the reigning champion until the final corner of the final lap of the GP at Jerez.

Marquez says his adaptation to the Ducati has

Marquez says his adaptation to the Ducati has "finished"

Photo by: Dorna

If we consider that the Gresini rider has already regained the speed he lacked in his last spell at Honda and that he still has more appeal than anyone else as an attraction, it is logical to think that he has become the main threat to Martin in that mini championship which, in principle, will end at Mugello, a venue at which Ducati has stated it will make a statement. With Marquez, however, there is an issue that is not minor, and that is related to the travelling partners who come with him.

The Catalan is one of Red Bull's main icons, while Ducati, in all its racing divisions, is sponsored by Monster. While it would not be the first time an athlete has changed his hat for the sake of convenience, in this case, it would be very striking given the significant role Red Bull has played in the rider's sporting life.

Autosport asked him directly to what extent his ties with Red Bull would be an obstacle to him joining the factory Ducati team, and his response suggests that he would not think twice: "I hope that this moment comes when I can have the option of signing for the factory team. If that happens, it's all a matter of talking about it and looking at the different options."

Marquez's sponsorship ties will be a consideration in his future decision, but a tough one he seems willing to make

Marquez's sponsorship ties will be a consideration in his future decision, but a tough one he seems willing to make

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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