Dovizioso and Lorenzo at Ducati?

Obviously, after Lorenzo's announcement that he would be joining Ducati in 2017 and 2018, the tension mounted in the two boxes of the Italian team. The big question is who will be Jorge Lorenzo's teammate from 2017, but answering it is a tricky business.
The biggest issue is that both Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone have strong assets to their sides, even though the shortcomings are not missing either. Clearly not in the same league with the "aliens," the two Andrea are still among the next best riders on the grid, and they'd probably be most welcome on any other team.

Ducati has not made any statements that would lead us anywhere, leaving everything to the guessing game. The only declarations mention that both Iannone and Dovizioso are competitive riders, and the team will weigh their decision very carefully.

Frankly, something tells us that Dovizioso will be the other factory rider for Ducati. However, we believe that Iannone will be sacked from the team because of his friendship with Rossi, and not his move that took both him and Dovi out in Argentina.

His move was not one made with ill intent, and even though Race Direction handed Iannone a penalty point and demoted his next qualifying by three grid positions, the crash was considered a mere race incident.

It's now clear, more than ever, that sides are being taken on the grid. Remember the pre-race declarations from riders supporting or opposing Rossi? Some riders made it clear that they would not put up a fight with Rossi when he got behind them. Knowing that getting out of the way would subject them to a visit to Race Direction, them not dueling with Rossi was the best way to show their support and help the Italian get closer to the front.

Even though none of these riders made a big issue from their (varying degrees of) support for Rossi, their positions put them in camps. As we wrote in an editorial back in the day, Iannone, Petrucci, Elias, Vinales, Smith, Miller, and Hayden were for Rossi, while Bautista, Bradl, Barbera, Hernandez, and Pedrosa were supporting Lorenzo and Marquez. The Espargaro brothers, Dovizioso, Crutchlow, and Redding made no comments.

So, even though Dovizioso did not openly take sides, his teammate did. Also, Rossi has already indicated Iannone among the riders he'd be glad to have as teammates at Yamaha. Despite the politically correct "radio silence" in this matter, it doesn't take a MotoGP expert to understand that Ducati feels they'd be better off with Rossi-neutral riders, if a full anti-Rossi line-up is not possible.

Such paddock politics may be stronger than other reasons, and despite the fact that Iannone seemed to be the better rider over the past months, Dovizioso might get the factory seat.

Even so, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali indicated that one of the contracted riders might be "demoted" to the satellite team. With team Octo Pramac Yakhnich currently fielding Scott Redding, who's looking stronger than ever and injured Danilo Petrucci, who also looked at his best before the injury at Phillip Island, how Ducati will choose to act in this matter only adds to the entire thing.

Maverick Vinales' choice can also mess things up

Another name that's in the middle of the current turmoil is that of Maverick Vinales. Yamaha officials made no secret that the team was interested in him, even before many of the Lorenzo-Ducati rumors started circulating.

This makes us believe that Lin Jarvis had a hunch that JL99 might leave the team a long time ago. Surely, when talking about Vinales and the other riders Yamaha was interested in, some might have thought that Jarvis was talking about Tech 3... but he knew better.

Still, Vinales is a bit torn between two attractive options. On the one hand, Suzuki is becoming more and more competitive, and he already showed that he can battle for a place on the podium. House Hamamatsu is working around the clock to improve the bike, and Vinales' feedback is crucial for the development.

Davide Brivio was not shy to speak about this openly and says that a race win with Vinales aboard a Suzuki is worth more than three aboard a Yamaha. Considering the fact that Suzuki is in their second year back in MotoGP with an entirely new bike and they are getting closer to the podium with each race, it's understandable why Brivio wants to retain Vinales.

Suzuki's MotoGP boss adds that Vinales has not said anything about his future yet, but in case he chooses to go to Yamaha, he will be forced to find a decent replacement for Maverick. Given this situation, Aleix Epsargaro's seat at Suzuki seems to be safe, especially as he started showing signs of improvement, and Brivio says that the team is fully confident in his capabilities.

Now, the permutations and possible scenarios are quite numerous, and the decisions Ducati and Vinales make are the key elements. The structure of the factory teams, possibly including Repsol Honda, will change according to what happens to one of the Ducati riders and to Vinales.

One of the wildest scenarios sees Vinales staying with Suzuki and Iannone replacing Lorenzo at Yamaha. The Italian has "Rossi's blessing" and so does Maverick Vinales. Some even say that Yamaha could be offering Pedrosa a two-year ride, but this sounds a bit far-fetched because Pedrosa is rather close to the end of his career, whereas the other options Yamaha has still have many a good season ahead.

It looks like the teams are playing some sort of waiting game, trying to anticipate the moves rivals will make and then make the best decision for themselves. This, and the fact that the field has been leveled out a bit thanks to the unified software, might make 2016 one of the best seasons we had in MotoGP for decades, and with KTM joining the fray next year and still looking for their second rider, things will only become crazier, in a positive way.
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