Ducati downplays prospect of Viñales MotoGP deal

Maverick Viñales. Picture: MotoGP.com

Ducati is unlikely to swoop on Maverick Viñales after he was granted an early release from his MotoGP contract with Yamaha.

Viñales will part ways with the Iwata marque at the end of the current season, halfway through what was a two-year deal, after growing frustrations with his bike.

The nine-time premier class race winner has been heavily linked to Aprilia, which currently fields Aleix Espargaro and the very inexperienced Lorenzo Savadori.

However, he denied after finishing second in the Dutch TT that a deal had already been done, despite being willing to admit that an exit from Yamaha was “an option” before it was officially announced.

Another theory is that Viñales could land somewhere at Ducati, which pursued him before his last contract was signed.

That would not necessarily be at the factory team, where incumbents Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia already have deals for 2022, but potentially in one of the satellite outfits.

The Spaniard could emulate Johann Zarco, who is second in the championship in his first season with the Bologna marque’s senior satellite team, Pramac Racing.

Zarco left KTM midway through 2019 but was picked up by Ducati, after a late-year stint as an injury replacement at LCR Honda, and placed at Esponsorama Racing for the 2020 campaign.

Ducati does control the contracts for both seats at Pramac but, unfortunately for Viñales, Jorge Martin is half a season into a two-year deal and Zarco has been renewed already.

There will be eight Desmosedicis on the grid on a full-time basis in 2022, with Gresini Racing switching from Aprilia and Team VR46 replacing Esponsorama.

But, Gresini has already announced Fabio Di Giannantonio and Enea Bastianini as its riders for next year and VR46 is set to retain the services of Luca Marini, who is domiciled at Esponsorama for his rookie season.

That leaves one seat still in play, at least in theory, although there is little interest in Viñales from Ducati, if comments by factory team boss Davide Tardozzi are anything to go by.

“I’m sorry Viñales has made this decision, but he’ll have his reasons of course,” Tardozzi told Sky Sport Italia.

“A future with Ducati? Right now, we’re very pleased to have Francesco Bagnaia and Jack Miller while the other Ducati riders are also doing well.

“We are investing in young riders and so I believe and hope that they too will bring us strong results.”

While that is not a firm denial, the Italian also commented, “I don’t know where he’ll go, but I hope he stays in the MotoGP championship.

“He’s an important rider for the category, and is very fast.

“I hope Aprilia secures the best possible riders so that they can be as competitive as possible.”

VR46 could, of course, engage Viñales without Ducati’s involvement, although it is regarded as a place for the operation’s Academy riders.

Among those are Marco Bezzecchi, who Valentino Rossi described as being “at the top of the list” of candidates for its vacant seat before his former team-mate’s shock split from Yamaha.

As for Rossi himself, he maintains that Viñales’ move makes no difference to thoughts of retirement, despite creating a void in the Yamaha ranks.

The veteran’s current team-mate at SRT, Franco Morbidelli, is a potential replacement but, unlike #46, is tied to the Malaysian-owned squad rather than the factory.

Miguel Oliveira claims he was approached by Yamaha, but opted to respect his contract at Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, where he believes he can become a world champion anyway.

MotoGP resumes after its summer break on August 6-8 at the Red Bull Ring.

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