Rating The Riders, 2016: Andrea Dovizioso

We continue our review of 2016 with a look at the man Ducati decided to keep. Here is how we saw Andrea Dovizioso's performance last season, and why Ducati preferred him to Andrea Iannone:

Andrea Dovizioso – Ducati – 8
5th - 171 points

The rumors that Ducati would be signing Jorge Lorenzo immediately sparked debate among fans over which Andrea the Italian factory should keep alongside the Spaniard. Early signs were that it would be Iannone who would stay. There was talk that Ducati had a contract ready for Iannone to sign at Austin. The fans were almost unanimous: keeping Iannone was the right thing to do.

Yet it was Andrea Dovizioso who Ducati kept, and by Barcelona, it was clear why. Dovizioso started the race 7 points behind his teammate, but by the time he crossed the line, Iannone had made it four races he had crashed out of, twice taking another rider out in the process. One of which had been Dovizioso, in Argentina.

2016 would prove not to be Andrea Dovizioso's year. It started well, with a second place at Qatar, but it quickly went downhill from there. In Argentina, he was wiped out by Iannone in the penultimate corner, Iannone depriving Ducati of a double podium. Dovizioso showed his character by picking up his bike and pushing it across the line, finishing thirteenth and scoring three valuable points. At Austin, it was the turn of Dani Pedrosa to make a highly unusual mistake and take Dovizioso down, then at Jerez, a problem with the water pump left water on his rear tire, and caused the Italian to withdraw.

But Dovizioso proved his mettle in many ways. Firstly, he kept his head down and kept on working, never overtly criticizing Ducati, and being circumspect in his criticism of his teammate. (A teammate he loathed, it was rumored. The two were said never to eat in the Ducati hospitality at the same time.) Secondly, he kept plugging away and racking up the points. Podiums in Germany and Japan. Narrowly losing to his teammate in Austria. Finally winning the second MotoGP race of his career at Sepang. Finishing fifth in the championship, despite the disastrous early part of the season.

Dovizioso's second place in Austria stung him the most. The Italian had wanted to be the first rider to win for Ducati since Casey Stoner left at the end of 2010, and the Red Bull Ring was built for the Desmosedici. But Dovizioso chose the safer hard tire option, where Iannone gambled on the medium providing grip to the end of the race. The race typified the differences between the two men, Iannone the gambler making a brave and brilliant pass on the final lap, Dovizioso riding with his head and managing the race, but just coming up short.

Dovizioso's reward for that approach finally came in Malaysia. Where others kept crashing out – including, unsurprisingly, Andrea Iannone – Dovizioso handled the conditions perfectly, winning comfortably in the wet. He had judged grip levels carefully, erring just on the side of caution, yet pushing to stay at the front when he needed to.

This victory, and this approach, is the reason Ducati elected to keep Andrea Dovizioso for 2017 and 2018 to partner Jorge Lorenzo. Dovizioso is keenly analytical – he and Bradley Smith are the two riders I turn to with technical questions – calm, hard working, and still full of ambition. Whether he has what it takes to be a champion one day is very much open to question, but Ducati are paying another rider a lot of money to do that for them. They have the perfect partner in Dovizioso.

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There have been a few of these over the years and personally I think it takes nothing away from them.

Dovi's calmness and long term outlook regarding the Ducatis development has been very impressive and I will admit that a few years ago I thought a little too optimistic.  Glad he proved me wrong.

Sure, the lad did a good job... But I still think they should have kept Iannone. He's shown great maturity in the 2015 season, if that's anything to go by and the Suzuki engineers to their jobs.... Who knows what will happen..?

Consider how much Ducati is paying Lorenzo; Iannone's fate was sealed that last turn in Argentina.

Not a snowball's chance in hell he was going to be Ducati's #2.

Maybe it came down to wanting a second rider who could stay on the bike, potentially providing Ducati with a handful of occasions where two of the three place getters are in the red and white leathers. Either way, they appear to have two riders now that, while they may not be overt showmen, are highly analytical, clinical and professional. The bigger question might be how the bikes handle without the wings.

Will Dovi have an outburst of pride, or self-affirmation or whatever we want to call it and try to beat Lorenzo in Qatar? Does anyone think there will be team orders or they'll play it like in Yamaha? I'm not saying that JL and AD are on the same level they are clearly not. But the first couple of races take place on Ducati friendly tracks and Dovi has been there done that and almost won (specifically in qatar) so he might have a slight advantage over Lorenzo....
This is all speculation on my part, but what happens if Dovi beats Lorenzo in Qatar? Is this extra motivation for the Spaniard? Or the beginning of heavy atmosphere in the red garage? After all, from what I gathered, one is paid about 5 times more than the other..... any thoughts on this?

Surely, Dovizioso is the reasonable choice for Ducati. He probably won't challenge Lorenzo, maybe win a race or get on the podium 3/4 times in 2017. Furthermore he'd probably wreck half the Desmosedici's that Iannnone would, probably won't catapult JL off the track and if push comes to shove, maybe even help out JL if it comes to clinching the title. 

But that's exactly his problem.... that's why he will never be a MotoGP champion. I respect his work ethic and professional approach. But I like to see someone wringing the neck off a 270 bhp MotoGP bike, wrestling it around a racetrack the best he can, whenever he can. I don't feel much for a racer who will walk in line perfectly when a factory tells him to. So I have a weak spot for Iannone I guess... sorry guys