Why Miller deserves a Ducati MotoGP contract renewal

Opinion: Jack Miller's second consecutive MotoGP victory in the French Grand Prix has reinforced the Australian's confidence after a difficult start to his first season as a Ducati factory rider. Now the onus is on Ducati to reward him

Why Miller deserves a Ducati MotoGP contract renewal

Despite being labelled as the leader of the Borgo Panigale brand's new project after the Andrea Dovizioso era, Miller was only offered the option of signing for a single year, instead of the two offered to his team-mate Francesco Bagnaia.

After a difficult start to the 2021 world championship in which he failed to live up to the expectations generated by his promotion from Pramac to the Ducati factory team, scoring only 14 points in the first three rounds, Miller has emerged stronger than ever.

After ending a five-year drought with victory in the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, his win at Le Mans last weekend has relaunched his chances of fighting for a title that less than a month ago seemed to be painfully out of reach.

PLUS: How a Crutchlow helped Miller to Jerez MotoGP redemption

In the Qatar double-header, arm-pump prevented him from showing his best version of himself he showed in the pre-season. The fall in Portimao, just after his surgery for compartment syndrome, only added to the pressure and caused him to have doubts, as he himself admitted.

"The thing is that Jack himself set his expectations very high for this year, moving to the factory team," Ducati sport director Paolo Ciabatti told Autosport.

"He seems like a very tough guy, but he's very sensitive and has a big heart. It was a dream for him to come to the factory team.

"But then came the forearm problems. And when everyone expects so much from you, and suddenly you don't do well, it has a big psychological impact."

Race winner Jack Miller, Ducati Team celebrates with his team

Race winner Jack Miller, Ducati Team celebrates with his team

Photo by: Dorna

However, Jerez arrived and with the Andalusian circuit came a turning point. A change of trend motivated by the arm-pump for Yamaha's Fabio Quartararo, who also had to undergo surgery when he was left with hardly any feeling in his hands, offered Miller a chance of redemption.

Miller's victory took the proverbial monkey off his shoulders, and the consequences of that were seen last Sunday in a race at Le Mans that was superbly planned - and even better executed. Neither a run off the track into the gravel nor a double long-lap penalty prevented the Townsville rider from charging to victory on a wet, slippery tarmac in Sunday's dramatic flag-to-flag French GP.

PLUS: Why the most significant Le Mans MotoGP performance wasn't Miller's

The win not only puts him back in the championship fight, but will in all likelihood certify his contract extension, which Autosport understands will be finalised in the coming days.

Miller is delighted with the treatment he has received. He feels at home, having landed in the garage with his trusted technicians who had already accompanied him at Pramac.

In fact, Paolo Campinoti, the owner of the structure, played a decisive role in preventing Miller from leaving for KTM, when Ducati general manager Gigi Dall'Igna made the infamous attempt to re-sign Jorge Lorenzo midway through 2019.

On that occasion, the idea of re-signing the Mallorcan was born out of a desire to put pressure on Dovizioso, even if it could put Miller out of the running.

"I can't say if Jack has forgiven that, but he has preferred to forget it," someone close to him told this writer.

Pole sitter Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team, second place Jack Miller, Pramac Racing

Pole sitter Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team, second place Jack Miller, Pramac Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Ducati, in turn, is in a happy mood and has good reason to be. Nine months ago, when Dovizioso announced that he would no longer be wearing the red jumpsuit, uncertainty surrounded the manufacturer's garage.

In a complete rethink, the top management, with Claudio Domenicali and Dall'Igna at the helm, opted to promote Miller and Bagnaia from Pramac, confident that they could make that last step forward thanks to the resources of the constructor.

Going into the sixth stop of the calendar at Mugello in two weeks' time, Bagnaia is just one point behind overall leader Quartararo, while his team-mate has taken two of the five races so far.

"The truth is that the arrival of Jack and Pecco has meant a change, both for their youth and their ambition and desire," Ciabatti concluded.

"Their predisposition is absolute, and that is very positive because it rubs off on the rest of the team."

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