Scott Redding vs Danilo Petrucci. The internal MotoGP contest at Octo Pramac Ducati to bag a works bike next year is now officially on fire after the Italian nerfed the Briton off at Motorland Aragon, and team manager Francesco Guidotti looks set to give Redding the advantage as recompense.
The two are locked in a battle to accrue the most points before the end of the season, and the winner will bag a Desmosedici GP17 – or whatever Ducati want to call it – for next year. Redding is currently behind in the race but Guidotti looks likely to give him the points he would have got had he finished in ninth – his position before Petrucci ended his race.
“From our side, we are thinking to assign Scott the points considering the position he had at the moment of the incident. He was ninth at that moment and Petrucci tenth,” Guidotti told BSN.
Is this a weird situation? It all started mid-August at the Red Bull Ring when both riders were gathered for a special meeting. At the table were: the team, represented by tGuidotti and team owner Paolo Campinoti, Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati Corse Sporting Director, the two riders Danilo Petrucci and Scott Redding, who have a contract directly with the factory, and their respective managers.
Octo Pramac’s original program for 2017 was to supply their riders two GP16s, but in Austria an extraordinary opportunity arose to get a GP17 and a GP16 for next year. No brainer.
“Given that we believe in both riders and both deserve a factory bike,” Guidotti to BSN, “we didn’t want to decide who was going to get that important prize. On the contrary, we chose transparency and all together we decided the criteria according to which a rider could to secure a GP17 for next season. Everybody agreed.”
A second meeting followed at Brno and starting from the Czech Republic Grand Prix, the competition kicked off. “Of course, the points remain the first criteria, but we will consider also other factors”, explains Guidotti. “Considering Danilo missed the first four races because he was injured and that Scott collected three DNFs due to technical problems, the internal calculation of the points started from zero at Brno, so that they could fight with equal weapons.
“We knew this challenge could create extra pressure on the riders and inside the garage, but it’s also part of our mission as Ducati junior team to train riders and see how they react when they have that extra pressure.”
On the paper, all good. But on the track? On Sunday, we saw an escalation of tension inside the garage due to the clash between the two riders. Petrucci and Redding both started from the top ten positions on the grid, meaning they had every chance of obtaining a positive result on the Spanish soil. But their race was compromised after less than one lap. The start was good and Redding was able to overtake Petrucci. At the first corner, they were ninth and tenth respectively, but the Italian touched the Briton forcing him wide. Fortunately they both succeeded to re-join the race, but they lost every hope to fight for the points. On lap nine, Petrucci was handed a ride-through penalty from race direction and he finally finished 17th. It was even more frustrating for Redding, who was the last rider to cross the line in 19th position.
After the race, the fireworks.
“This time Danilo lost his mind”, Redding declared. “I would never have expected such a thing from a team-mate. We touched before the end of the first lap. We almost didn't have to wait for turn 12, as we had already only just missed touching at turn seven. It's not the first time he makes a similar kind of move. It had already happened in Austria. That time it happened to Laverty.”
“I've lost respect for him, he even didn’t come and apologise,” continued Redding. “This kind of behaviour creates a really bad atmosphere within the team.”
Petrucci recognised Redding was entitled to feel angry after the crash, but he explained that some issues with his GP15's engine braking were the cause of the incident.
“It was a difficult race,” said the Italian, “I am very sorry for what happened with Scott. Since the first corner, I experienced problems with the bike, I could not brake properly. I was always going wide. On the first lap I tried to brake hard but my bike didn't stop. When I tried to pass Scott, I went side by side with him. I didn’t have the impression we touched very hard but it was heavy enough to push him off the track. He went wide and after the kerb he lost the steer.
“I am very sorry for what happened. Since the first corner, I experienced problems with the bike. I am really mortified. He is very angry with me and he is right because I ruined also his race. I will apologise. It's the second time this year. It never happened in the previous years. After Austria with Eugene, this time was the first lap. I'm very sorry. The remaining of the race? It was really hard and I had to go slow."
Was the incident the result of the internal team-championship of just a racing incident?
“For me it was a racing incident. Race direction judged Petrucci’s pass as an unsporting manoeuvre and he was penalized with a ride through. He had already been penalised in Austria for the contact with Laverty on the last lap,” said Guidotti.
“Of course it’s even worse when this kind of incidents happen among team-mates, but it has always happened and always will. Just think of Dani Pedrosa who made Nicky Hayden crash in Estoril in 2006 when the American was fighting for the title, or this year between Andrea Iannone and Dovizioso.
“We have received a great opportunity from Ducati and we don’t want to renounce to this incredible chance. The riders have to be able to handle this extra pressure, but we want a fair battle. We have chosen the transparency and we have given our riders the same opportunity. We could have decided internally and told them our decision when the games were over. On the contrary, we have shared with them our ideas and made them responsible.”
The tension will inevitably rise in the last four races. “We are envied by the other teams for the great relationship that our riders had and for the nice atmosphere in our garage. I think that the incident in Aragon will have some consequences. It’s inevitable. It was a damage also for the team, because we had the opportunity to do a good race with both riders and we ended up without points. In Danilo’s favour, I have to say that Scott didn’t give him the opportunity to apologize because he left the garage very angry. But regarding the incident, race direction has already given their opinion.”
For Redding, this is good news, but will it help to keep the riders calm? The verdict will come soon. Three races in a row in Japan, Australia and Malaysia and the forced cohabitation in the same garage my put a lot of extra pressure on what was ‘the perfect couple’.”