Free from his contractual obligations as of December 31, Andrea Dovizioso has elaborated on the breakdown in relations with Ducati that led to the triple MotoGP title runner-up calling off 2021 negotiations in the middle of last season.
In an interview with Itay’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, Dovizioso reveals that a difficult working relationship with Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall’Igna eventually deteriorated from “30% to 0”.
“These [rider] decisions come only from Gigi. We talk about Ducati but it’s wrong, all the decisions made since he has been there, are his,” Dovizioso said, before claiming Ducati had the chance to sign reigning champion Marc Marquez from Honda instead of Jorge Lorenzo:
“Like Lorenzo instead of Marquez in 2017. At the beginning of 2016 there was the possibility to take him, but Gigi had already decided he wanted Lorenzo.”
Looking back, Dovizioso believes his Ducati fate was already sealed after a heated meeting with Dall’Igna in mid-2019.
“It started as a technical meeting, but it became a confrontation between the two of us and, I don’t know how to describe it, Gigi felt… hit, attacked,” Dovizioso said. “For me he closed the doors there, but he closed them while keeping quiet.”
Dall’Igna has since spoken of ‘knowing in mid-2019 that it would end with Dovizioso‘, comments which the #4 takes as “confirmation’ his mind was made up there and then.
“Gigi [recently] stated that in that famous meeting held in mid-2019 between Sachsenring and Austria, he understood that it was over,” Dovizioso said.
But what disappoints Dovizioso the most is that he was kept in the dark about Dall’Igna’s apparent intentions. Meanwhile, team-mate Danilo Petrucci was told he was out of a ride at the start of 2020, giving him time to secure an alternative seat at KTM for 2021.
“Let’s say that there was no transparent behaviour, unlike Petrucci, who was told before the season that there would be no room,” said Dovizioso, who had also held some talks with KTM: “I would have considered the KTM possibility differently.”
The impression given during the early part of last year was that discussions were progressing towards a new Dovizioso-Ducati deal, with money the main sticking point. However, the factory’s most successful rider since Casey Stoner insists he never even received an offer.
“There was never a real proposal. It was said that Dovizioso asked for this or Ducati could give this… all lies. We never negotiated, above all an offer never arrived. And, therefore, we have never rejected a low one.
“It is confirmation that in the 2019 meeting it was over for Gigi.”
He added: “To get along with Gigi you can’t go against him. Instead, by supporting certain ideas, we went into conflict. Other manufacturers have held press conferences apologising to the riders [Yamaha in Austria 2018], we never.
“The rider in Ducati has more and more pressure. ‘You can do more, you can do more’, and it’s true. And regardless of whether you are second in the World Championship or the first or third Ducati, this is transmitted. Well ok, but as soon as you [struggle]… boom, disaster. One race, two. One year, two. You struggle to be relaxed.”
Dovizioso also took exception to “statements made about my motivation”, saying that he put his heart and soul into his eight years at Ducati.
“I remember more the good results. 2017, 2018 and a little bit of 2019 were spectacular,” he reflected. “‘DesmoDovi’ was not just a name. I gave my soul, I really believed in this project. Unlike some people in Ducati who have always seen me as not trying hard enough…”
Nonetheless, Dovizioso, who celebrated 14 race victories and 40 podiums at Ducati, paid tribute to the factory’s technical prowess.
“I have always said and recognized the quality and skill of most of the engineers in the racing department,” he said. “It’s crazy how smart, intelligent, Italian they are… and Gigi for me is a lot [of that], very good at squeezing and getting a lot out of them. It is a huge positive side.
“But I always struggled so much, despite establishing excellent relationships with certain engineers, to convince and direct development in my direction.”
The 34-year-old was also mystified by Ducati’s decision not to protest Yamaha’s penalty for breaching the engine homologation rules, which saw the company lose some constructors’ and teams’ points, but keep all of its riders’ points.
“It doesn’t make sense. If you recognise that something out of the rules has been done, there is no [sense] penalising the manufacturer and not the riders. Ducati, if it had been correct, should have told me and we could have moved within the limits possible. It hasn’t been done and it cost me third place [in the world championship] and a lot of prize money.”
With the leading 2021 seats already gone by the time he called-off negotiations with Ducati in August, on the eve of his sole 2020 race victory in Austria, Dovizioso is currently set to skip this season and seek a return for 2022.
But with a question mark still hanging over Marquez’s fitness due to the lengthy complications with his broken arm, there has been speculation Dovizioso might step-in at Honda for at least the early rounds.
“I have no idea,” Dovizioso said of Marquez’s current situation, adding that for now, “We have nothing on the table.”