Alvaro Bautista continued his unbeaten run of success at Assen. The time might be nearing for Ducati to evaluate the costs of such success
On Sunday Alvaro Bautista won his 11th straight race in WorldSBK. He’s unbeaten in 2019 and he’s well on his way to adding a Superbike title to his 125GP crown. The Spaniard is riding with incredible confidence and consistency and he’s a joy to watch. That is unless you’re the financial directors of Ducati. The costs of his success are racking up and he’s put himself into a very rare position - he’s potentially winning too much!
In racing all success is measured in numbers. Number of wins, number of podiums and number of pole positions. The contracts for riders reflect this. The more you win the more you make. Incentives have always been heavily rewarded and no doubt Alvaro Bautista’s contract is structured in a similar way.
In conversation with riders and team representatives in Assen the general figure bandied about for race wins was €25,000. Of course with the Superpole race having been introduced for this season it’s possible that the ten lap shootout has a different value attached to it. Some riders said they aren’t paid bonus money for the Superpole races and others are on the same as any other race.
As a guideline we’ll use Bautista’s figures to be what seemed the normal going rate of €25,000 for a race victory and we’ll assess that Ducati are offering him a lower figure for the Superpole race victory.
In 2003 Neil Hodgson started the season in a similar vein. He was unbeaten through four rounds, won nine races in a row and over the course of the season won 13 times. His contract was such that his win bonuses, and championship bonus, left Ducati with little option but to find another home for the Englishman. The 2003 WorldSBK champion moved to MotoGP with the D’Antin squad and saved Ducati a fortune in bonus money for 2004.
As it stands you’d imagine that Bautista, managed by Simone Battistella, has put himself in a very strong position to negotiate an immediate return to the MotoGP. If we assess Bautista’s success thus far he’s earned at least €200,000 in bonus money from feature race victories and you’d imagine that three pole positions and four Superpole race victories have earned him some extra notes on top of that.
With championship bonuses and another 27 races in 2019 his earnings could be sky high for this season. His unprecedented success has been such that it must have started to set a Ducati accountant into a cold sweat. It’s a nice problem to have for the Italian manufacturer but with Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller out of contract at the end of this season there would be potential to move the runaway WorldSBK series leader back to the Grand Prix paddock.
Would Bautista leave? That’s harder to know but if he did go he’d certainly leave with a much improved base salary compared to this year. Battistella is generally regarded as one of the coolest operators in the MotoGP paddock. He’s a manager that is noted for his ability to always look out for the best interests of his clients but also who can leave something at the table so that teams and manufacturers are happy with the negotiations. It would be a surprise if such a clever operator hasn’t negotiated some clauses to give Bautista a potential avenue back to MotoGP and with the Spaniard’s earnings raising considerably with each passing weekend there will come a time when the motivation to make a change starts to be felt in Bologna.
Sometimes winning isn’t enough in racing. Sometimes it’s actually too much. It happened to Ducati in 2003 with Hodgson, could history repeat itself in 2019?
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