OPINION

What does Lorenzo moving to Ducati mean for the rest of the MotoGP grid?

By the time confirmation of Jorge Lorenzo’s move to Ducati was announced today, I would have been more surprised if he had said he was going to stay at Yamaha.

The reigning MotoGP World Champion’s contract has been the main topic of discussion since the beginning of the season and as the weeks went on it became almost certain that he would be making the move to the Italian team.

If you’d asked me last year I would have said, without hesitation, that Lorenzo would stay at Yamaha. On more than one occasion he’s stated that he wants to end his career with the Japanese team (which is technically still possible) and it was easy to understand why. The M1 suits Jorge; it fits him like a glove.

Lorenzo waves goodbye to Yamaha

Lorenzo waves goodbye to Yamaha

But the events of last season could also be part of the reason why Jorge has decided to make the switch.

Yamaha’s handling of the Sepang incident between his team-mate Valentino Rossi and Honda’s Marc Marquez left much to be desired. They allowed Rossi to continuously suggest that Marquez and Lorenzo were working together against Rossi. Yamaha failed to reign Rossi in whilst also giving no real effort to defend Lorenzo against these accusations.

The Yamaha Factory Team won the rider’s championship, the team championship and the manufacturer’s championship in 2015. The much-sought-after triple crown of MotoGP.

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Do you remember the celebrations? No, you don’t because there weren’t any.

Jorge celebrated in his hometown of Palma de Mallorca. But again Yamaha failed to stand firm and control the situation. They should have been celebrating an incredibly successful year, shouting to anyone that would listen that the M1 was the best bike and that they had a 1-2 finish in the rider’s championship. But they didn’t.

Rossi didn’t attend the award ceremony, his absence drawing more attention than the achievements of his World Champion team-mate.

A pensive Rossi is a dangerous Rossi.

A pensive Rossi is a dangerous Rossi.

Yamaha and Valentino Rossi are intrinsically linked, have been for many years and will continue to be so. The VR46 company handles Yamaha merchandise and Rossi will long be an ambassador for the Japanese team.

So if you are in that team and you are not Valentino Rossi? No matter what you achieve, you will be second to the 9x World Champion. That’s understandable, but to a triple MotoGP champion such as Jorge Lorenzo, it’s definitely not tolerable.

Ducati could offer Jorge Lorenzo a competitive bike.

If luck had been more on their side Ducati would have had 3 podiums from 3 races in 2016 already. The Italian team isn’t short of money either, thanks to their owners Audi and close partner Philip Morris. Of course, money isn’t everything but when you’re being offered a decent bike, with a nice salary attached, it helps.

Paolo Ciabatti said that he felt it was the competitive bike that convinced Lorenzo to make the move, and I’d agree with him. If this was 2014 would he have made the switch? Probably not.

The Ducati has already proved competitive in '16

The Ducati has already proved competitive in ’16

It also helps that Gigi Dall’Igna (who Lorenzo knows quite well) has said that they can adapt the bike to suit the Spaniard’s style. A willingness to change and adapt is vital for any new partnership. If they are able to fit the bike to the man, and vice versa, Lorenzo stands a real chance of being the first Ducati race winner since 2010, and perhaps even a shot at bringing the Italian factory their first championship since 2007.

Now the move has been confirmed, it’s time to look at how this season could be affected.

Overall, not too much will change. Lorenzo is second in the championship as it stands, and Yamaha isn’t going to withdraw support for a title-challenger. The upgrades that are already in the works for 2016 will continue to be given to both Yamaha riders as scheduled. Lorenzo should also participate in the earlier tests planned for this year, with the first being at Jerez on Monday after the race.

But in the second part of the season, it’s unlikely this will continue. Yamaha won’t want Lorenzo playing a part in the development of the 2017 bike, so he probably won’t test from Brno onwards or take part in private tests. While Yamaha won’t “ditch” Lorenzo this season, it would be understandable if they gave more time to Rossi and his development ideas, after all, he will be riding the bike next year.

Next season and what it will bring for Yamaha without Lorenzo will depend very much on who they replace him with.

Maverick Vinales was the favourite to take his place, although there is now uncertainty over that particular move after Vinales split with his manager Aki Ajo. If Vinales did make the move, it would make sense for the team… to start with at least. Rossi and Vinales currently have a decent relationship, but we’ve seen in the past how that can change and fast!

The young Spaniard would almost certainly be able to beat Rossi on the M1, which could quickly turn things sour. One of the biggest issues could be who Lorenzo takes with him to Ducati, every rider wants to move as much as their team as possible but individual contracts and personal choices could make that difficult.

His “rider performance analyst” Wilko Zeelenberg will probably stay with Yamaha, but if there’s one person Lorenzo won’t want to leave behind it will be his crew chief Ramon Forcada. Moving without Forcada would make the Ducati change a very difficult one indeed, simply because of their relationship. I would imagine that Jorge has some idea over who will move with him, it would be almost foolish to make the decision without that information.

Once Lorenzo is at Ducati he will be partnered by an Andrea, but which one is currently not known.

Pick an Andrea, any Andrea.

Pick an Andrea, any Andrea.

At the beginning of the season it was thought most probable that Dovizioso would leave, but listening to both Ciabatti and Dall’Igna it now seems that both he and Iannone are back on an equal footing. Dall’Igna says that he expects to have a decision on which one will remain by the Barcelona race in June. Whoever does leave Ducati next season would be a very attractive target for the other teams looking at their rider lineup; Iannone is fast although sometimes careless, whilst Dovizioso also has the speed of his younger compatriot with a bit more consideration.

For the other teams and riders, this is the first real piece of the 2017 jigsaw.

In Qatar, we knew that Rossi was staying put and that Bradley Smith would be moving to KTM. But now there is a big space at Yamaha, something there hasn’t been for a number of years. Honda seems to be looking to keep both of their current riders and I would be surprised to see a change there. Suzuki’s lineup will depend on Maverick Vinales, and the places in the Satellite teams are all pretty open at the minute.

With three races gone it’s unusual for “silly season” to have started so early, and even more unusual to already have such a big decision being made at this time of year.

We could find out more about how next year’s grid will look in the Jerez press conference on Thursday; where Yamaha’s Managing Director Lin Jarvis will be speaking. Jarvis will almost certainly answer questions on Lorenzo’s departure – don’t expect anything too juicy – but could also provide more information on their 2017 lineup.

Whatever else happens, 2017 already looks to be a fascinating season, and we’re only 3 races into 2016. 

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Mcclenp

    April 18, 2016 at 21:22

    Musical garages will start early i’d say. Yamaha will want to sign a new stable mate for ‘yer man soon. just hope he behaves.

  2. Avatar

    Ross Thomson

    April 18, 2016 at 21:53

    well it will make him easy to beat !

  3. Avatar

    Al Nodrog

    April 18, 2016 at 23:40

    Good luck Lorenzo. The cult of Rossi is too big, just like dangerous (for the world) Putin.

  4. Avatar

    Tim Eastgate

    April 19, 2016 at 07:12

    Why is Rossi always referred to as a 9x World Champion but Lorenzo’s limited to his 3 MotoGP championship wins? Surely 2x 250 wins are if anything worth more than a 125 & a 250? Always the same… make the achievements of Rossi seem superior to his opponents through the manipulation of the statistics. The press are as much to blame as anyone for the MotoGP GOAT dependency & the probable collapse in support when all his fans leave when he moves on.

  5. Avatar

    David Burkitt

    April 19, 2016 at 07:33

    Rossi Is getting nearer 40 now and it’s still 7 titles in gp besides he was winning on the monster 500cc two strokes with next to no electronics to help..just my two pence worth.

  6. Avatar

    David Burkitt

    April 19, 2016 at 08:34

    Tbh I don’t think these bikes would be rideable without electronics. Not taking anything away from lorenzo, marquez. Or any of the others they are all fantastic talented but you can’t argue with the fact what ever the reasons rossi has become a legend in his own life time.

  7. Avatar

    Tim Eastgate

    April 19, 2016 at 08:34

    For some reason my reply seems to have gone… I linked to supporting evidence that Rossi is most definitely a fan of electronics, “I tried the new electronic for next year and it will be a big problem,” said Rossi. “I mean it is like we make a jump in the past and it’s like the software from 2008 or 2009. For me the bike wasn’t more fun to ride with less electronics because in the end the higher the level of the bike then the better it is for my enjoyment.”

  8. Avatar

    David Burkitt

    April 19, 2016 at 09:32

    Think we gone on bit off track anyway lol.. While I do agree lorenzo and marquez etc are exceptionally talented and deserving of their titles. The reason rossi is as big as he is is the fact he has 10+ years on marquez etc.. And is still running. At the front.if they are still here winning in ten years I’ll be impressed, I remember an example of rossi on the Honda getting a ride through from 2nd. To dead last. Half way through a race. Not only did he come through and win but won by a few seconds iirc

  9. Avatar

    Stu Bell

    April 19, 2016 at 09:54

  10. Avatar

    Anon

    April 19, 2016 at 10:37

    One of the best articles I have read for this year. Keep up the awesome work.

    Lorenzo is a very good (understated) rider. That I will give him. The one thing I do not like is the whole soap opera show that riders go for. At this point I should state that yes I’m a Rossi fan, been one for a very long time.
    One should not underplayed what Lorenzo did for Yamaha in 2015, it was an accomplishment not many riders can pull off. Though his attitude and comments that he has made during the later part of the season made me strongly dislike him. Call me a conspiracy theorist but what Rossi said about him and Marc working together looked all too real in the final race of 2015.
    I wish Lorenzo everyting of the best and hope he gets to fly much higher than he currently is. As for Rossi, he has gone through many a battles to prove his worth. WeR1

  11. Avatar

    Selwyn Leonard

    April 19, 2016 at 10:38

    everything of the best Lorenzo, hope Ducati can give you what you lacked at Yamaha. #WeR1

  12. Avatar

    Mark Gallagher

    April 19, 2016 at 11:12

    great article, although I hope they get Alex Lowes on the M1, either at factory or tech3. Lowes twins V Marquez bros =money!

  13. Avatar

    Matt Wright

    April 19, 2016 at 11:38

    Spot on that.

  14. Avatar

    Matt Wright

    April 19, 2016 at 11:39

    Marquez done that as well.

  15. Avatar

    Tom Vear

    April 19, 2016 at 12:03

    Rossi has more titles and on top of that a great poster boy and character for the sport – the people’s winner

  16. Avatar

    Dale Vincent

    April 19, 2016 at 14:02

    9 against 5 equals superior.

  17. Avatar

    Dale Vincent

    April 19, 2016 at 14:02

    Only bloke on the grid is Rossi to ride a 500 with no traction…..

  18. Avatar

    Dale Vincent

    April 19, 2016 at 14:03

    And?

  19. Avatar

    Dale Vincent

    April 19, 2016 at 14:05

    But marquez has no charisma…or sense of humour. Bar Smith….Rossi….and a couple of others they’re all boring machines.

  20. Avatar

    Tim Eastgate

    April 19, 2016 at 16:58

    Yeah…exactly…so why pretend it’s 9 v 3?

  21. Avatar

    Dale Vincent

    April 19, 2016 at 16:59

    They don’t. …you read what you want to read.

  22. Avatar

    Tim Eastgate

    April 19, 2016 at 17:00

    But as I said earlier…they always report it, as they have here, as 9 v 3. Would you say Rossi has 7 to Lorenzo’s 5?

  23. Avatar

    David Burkitt

    April 19, 2016 at 17:43

    Ok so may be statistically they may have an edge of bias towards rossi but only people who didn’t know or hadn’t followed moto gp would read into that. And 125 or 250 it’s still a championship whether it’s rossi lorenzo or anyone they have still beaten the best in the world and as you mentioned. The probable. Collapse of support once rossi leave isn’t for no reason. Hes effort determination and charm and charisma. Has endeared. Him to not just his home nation but all over the world.. You should read his autobiography. :-)

  24. Avatar

    Dale Vincent

    April 20, 2016 at 06:59

    If you want….still superior though….report it how you want….read it how you like 9-5…7-3….9-3…7-5. Makes no odds. He has been tagged GOAT for a reason. Won championship in EVERY class. 125…250…500…800…990…and 1000. His input turned the yamaha from a last place on the grid to a winning bike in 5 months….he deserves what he gets tagged with I’m afraid. Plus he has charisma…..a sense of humour….and ALWAY has time for his fans. The aforementioned Lorenzo (and Marquez) I’m afraid doesn’t.

  25. Avatar

    Tim Eastgate

    April 20, 2016 at 07:07

    Like I already said… I know that… we all know that… so why do people continually say 9 times world champion for Rossi but only ever count the MotoGP championships for his rivals? This article is typical. Lorenzo has 9 years on Rossi & 4 titles to equal him (not 6). Marc needs 5 in 14 years (not 7). Don’t worry, I don’t think you know why or support it. When 1 person has, at the moment, such a superior history there is no reason to belittle those who are trying to equal it. They should be supported. Otherwise why are we watching?

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