There were very few people who were surprised when Ducati announced at Le Mans they had reached a deal with Andrea Dovizioso for a new two-year contract. The Italian factory had said at the launch of their MotoGP project back in January that they were keen to get a new deal done with Dovizioso. “Andrea has been with us for six years and he’s in the heart of Ducati fans because of what he did last year,” team boss Paolo Ciabatti said in Bologna.
The original plan was to have the contracts signed early. “I don’t think making a firm decision too early, but for sure having a clear picture of the situation,” Ciabatti had said. “Then do the next steps as a consequence of the situation quite early. Quite early probably means the second half of February or the first half of March.”
Those next steps took longer than Ciabatti had perhaps appreciated. But this was perhaps unsurprising: after Dovizioso’s success in 2017, winning six races and coming with a whisker of beating Marc Márquez to the MotoGP crown, there were other factories who were interested, including Honda. Those negotiations took time, and in the end, the deal was only done with Dovizioso after Jerez, and announced at the French Grand Prix at Le Mans.
Negotiating contracts is always a delicate business, and never more delicate where championship contenders and factories are involved. It is a complex and time-consuming process, requiring many meetings and much back and forth over the details before contracts can be finalized and ready to sign.