Johann Zarco has been able to rebuild his career, after almost losing out on a MotoGP ride at the end of the 2019 when he decided to split from KTM, following that season's negative performance. His move to Avintia, a private team seemingly without big ambitions, allowed the Frenchman to both show his potential and earn a seat with the Pramac team for 2021.
The run-off with Bagnaia
Zarco and Francesco Bagnaia were both in the mix to replace Andrea Dovizioso on the Ducati factory team. The results that Pecco achieved prior to his Brno injury proved decisive: his second-place finish at the first Misano weekend and the race he led the following week, prior to his crash, steered Ducati towards him, leaving Johann with a seat on Paolo Campinoti’s team.
Following this decision, Bagnaia then suffered a decline, clocking up four DNFs and a best result of sixth place at Barcelona, while Zarco finished an up-and-down season with five top ten finishes and two fifth-place finishes (France and Tereul), not forgetting the pole and third place he achieved in the Czech Republic. Results that allowed the Frenchman to score 77 points in the general standings, compared to the Italian’s tally of 47.
Word of the day: consistency
In light of these results, was it the right choice to promote Pecco over Johann?
Considering what #63 demonstrated during the first part of the season, the answer can only be yes. Look at the Andalusian GP, when Pecco was powering his Ducati to the podium until a technical problem forced him to retire. His hunger and ability to put his heart into everything he does impressed the Bolognese managers, who are betting on him for the future. At the same time, in order to do well in 2021, he’ll need to solve the problems that arose during the second half of the year, when the 2018 Moto2 world champion saw his performance drop off.
For his part, Zarco will be able to count on a competitive structure and direct support from Borgo Panigale: "I’ve already seen that there’s good support from Ducati. I feel like a factory rider but without almost any of the media pressure that a factory rider has. In effect, that’s an advantage", he commented a few weeks ago. He has what he needs to do well, just consider the five podiums that the Miller-Bagnaia pair scored in 2020 (four for the Australian, one for the Italian).
Pecco will need to do better, much better, to legitimise his promotion. He can’t be fast in fits and spurts, and he must also demonstrate that he can cope with the pressure generated by a factory team.
Calm and grip
If Bagnaia needs to take a step forward, the same can be said of Ducati: the atmosphere in the garage needs to be a lot calmer than it was with Andrea Dovizioso, while the bike needs to be competitive at all tracks. The Desmosedici should well suit the tyres introduced by Michelin, particularly in low temperatures. Without these conditions, it will be difficult for anyone to bother Joan Mir and Suzuki.
Translated by Heather Watson