Dovizioso linked to MotoGP return in Yamaha shuffle

Andrea Dovizioso rides a Tech3 Yamaha in 2012. Picture: MotoGP.com

Andrea Dovizioso could race in MotoGP again as soon as next month, aboard a Yamaha.

The idea is that the Italian would saddle up for SRT, freeing compatriot Franco Morbidelli to make an early switch to the factory Monster Energy Yamaha team when he returns from injury.

Morbidelli would be taking the seat which was vacated in spectacular fashion by Maverick Viñales, whose contract was terminated even earlier than was planned at the end of June for attempting to damage his M1’s engine.

Dovizioso’s manager, Simone Battistella, is reportedly in talks with either Yamaha itself or management of SRT according to multiple European outlets, including Italian MotoGP broadcaster Sky Sport.

The 15-time grand prix winner left Ducati last year after eight seasons together, at which time he said “I will return to MotoGP as soon as I find a project driven by the same passion and ambition that I have.”

Although Dovizioso would probably only get the ‘A-Spec’ 2019 model M1 for the remainder of this season, given he would be a direct replacement for Morbidelli, he could be in line for Iwata’s latest-spec bike next year.

For Yamaha, SRT, Dovizioso, Morbidelli, and factory test rider Cal Crutchlow, the manoeuvres appear to be a win-win-win-win-win.

Yamaha gets its replacement for Viñales earlier than expected, bolstering its chances of teams’ and constructors’ championship victories, as well as having a rear gunner to enhance riders’ championship leader Fabio Quartararo’s own title hopes.

SRT would have a rider who was a genuine title contender as recently as last year, and who finished runner-up to Marc Marquez in 2017, 2018, and 2019, instead of relying solely on relatively unfancied rookies in 2022.

Furthermore, a Dovizioso deal is said to be supported by Milan-based energy company WithU, at a time when the Malaysian-owned team is about to lose naming rights sponsor Petronas.

Dovizioso eventually gets a package which Quartararo has proven can win races, rather than the punt he could have taken on Aprilia, which has now signed Viñales for 2022 anyway.

The Italian currently has a test deal with the Noale manufacturer but has never expressed great enthusiasm about competing for it, and was not mentioned in the press release confirming Viñales’ signing, even though outgoing race rider Lorenzo Savadori was named as an ongoing member of the Aprilia ranks.

For Morbidelli, the carrots are access to Yamaha’s latest equipment, having been riding an upgraded 2019 bike since the start of last season, and a headstart on life in the factory team.

Finally, Crutchlow need not race for all seven of the remaining grands prix of 2021, something which he had seemed reluctant to do.

Although none of the above has been confirmed, it is consistent with the fact that Jake Dixon’s promotion from SRT’s Moto2 programme to MotoGP this weekend at Silverstone is being billed as a one-off by team and rider.

The Briton’s ascension is but one part of the latest upheaval in the Yamaha ranks, necessitated because Crutchlow moves from filling in for the injured Morbidelli to taking the place of the axed Viñales.

Whether Dixon gets that seat next year is far from certain, with signs pointing to Darryn Binder being parachuted from SRT’s Moto3 team straight into the premier class.

Dovizioso has raced for a Yamaha satellite team before, landing at Tech3 for the 2012 season between his stints at Honda and Ducati.

The 2021 season resumes tomorrow night (AEST) with Practice 1 for the British Grand Prix.

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