With only three rounds left in the 2023 MotoGP world championship, there is a possibility that Pramac Ducati rider Jorge Martin might steal the title from factory rider Pecco Bagnaia. This would put Ducati in a difficult position, as they cannot afford to have a satellite rider become the world champion.
Currently, Martin is only 13 points behind Bagnaia, and his recent impressive performances, especially in sprint races, make it likely that he can turn things around in the season finale at Valencia. If Martin does win the title, Ducati will have to deal with the commercial implications of having a satellite world champion and manage the egos of its riders. This might force Ducati to make significant changes for the next season, regardless of whether Martin wins or loses.
Winning a title goes beyond just lifting the trophy; it has various commercial implications. Ducati uses the success of its world champion to sell bikes and maximize sponsorship returns. If the champion is no longer under the control of the factory press officers and marketers, it becomes difficult to maintain these partnerships. Major sponsors like Shell and Lenovo would not want the world champion to be on a different team, as it would be a bad look for their branding and investment.
Additionally, selling world championship replica Panigales would become harder, as negotiating image rights and branding approvals would be necessary. While Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna may not have a preference regarding the world champion as long as it’s a Ducati, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali may have different views.
The possibility of a swap for next year is further fueled by the disappointing performance of Bagnaia’s current teammate, Bastianini. Ducati confirmed in August that Bastianini would retain his seat for 2024, despite Martin’s impressive form. However, recent rumors suggest that Martin could potentially replace Bastianini next season.
Even if Martin loses to Bagnaia, there is a case for him to seek a transition due to a lack of full factory support. Other promising riders like Marco Bezzecchi are waiting for an opportunity at factory glory in 2024, which might convince Martin to explore other options. Martin, who emerged from KTM’s MotoGP talent pipeline, may attract interest as a potential replacement for Jack Miller at the end of next season.
Ducati faces a dilemma as they must find a way to prevent Martin from potentially leaving by giving him his desired end goal of a factory contract and the prestige of being a factory rider in factory colors.