Now that Andrea Dovizioso is officially onboard at Ducati for two more years, all eyes have turned toward Jorge Lorenzo. The Spaniard’s majestic arrival in Borgo Panigale is ancient history. The multi-millionaire who many envisioned would take the Desmosedici to the top of the MotoGP championship has fallen short of expectations. In a world where you are your results, Lorenzo’s value has plummeted sharply, and his future with Ducati is very much up in the air.
The possibility of seeing Lorenzo on a red motorcycle next year depends on two things: 1) performance; and 2) economics. Both are going to be challenging. First, Lorenzo has to fulfill his sporting obligations and, after that, accept certain financial conditions. His five world titles aside, Lorenzo must demonstrate a high level of competitiveness and, above all, consistency in the next two races. What does that mean? I would say that, at the very least, he needs to be on the podium at Mugello and Barcelona. Lorenzo’s performances in Italy and Spain will determine if the second part of the conditions for his continuation, economics, will be discussed.
If the first requirement is complicated, the second is even more so. Ducati would likely offer Lorenzo conditions similar to those it presented Dovizioso two years ago: a fixed “low” salary and a bonus structure based on results. Lorenzo was signed and paid to win the title and, to date, he has not even won a race. To continue with Ducati, he will probably have to agree to a contract on par with the one Dovizioso accepted.
What sounds like a reasonable proposition is at odds with Lorenzo, who holds up his three-time MotoGP world champion status to claim a personal value five or six times that which Ducati would likely offer even if he were to meet or exceed the results requirement. In his own statements, Lorenzo has contradicted himself, saying, “In this championship, there are two riders who make a difference when they are on an appropriate motorcycle: Márquez and me.” At other times, he has said, “The money that a team pays me I understand is the respect that team has toward my riding quality.”
Lorenzo now has less room for maneuvering. Actually, at this point, he has nearly no room left. With the rumored Suzuki option having faded and other factory bikes spoken for, where can he go? Unless his manager has an ace up his sleeve, there are only black clouds on the horizon. It sounds crazy to imagine Lorenzo concluding his time in the world championship but that possibility most certainly must also be on the table.
The only option, in my opinion, is a drastic change of approach. After 11 years in MotoGP—always with strong contracts—the 31-year-old Lorenzo must now bet on himself. Money should move into the background, and he should do as Dovizioso did (and Valentino Rossi in 2013 after his own Ducati adventure) and accept a bonus-based contract. In any case, Lorenzo must first show that he can be consistently competitive on the Ducati.