Speculation surrounding the future of defending WorldSBK Champion Alvaro Bautista has intensified ahead of this weekend’s fourth round in Barcelona, with latest signals from Ducati pointing towards the imminent confirmation of his retirement.
Earlier today [Tuesday], Ducati announced a press call ahead of this weekend’s Catalunya WorldSBK round inviting the media to attend a special ‘Alvaro Bautista Press Conference’ on Thursday.
While ‘round table’ media sessions held on Thursday are the norm, it is unusual for a team to announce a specific press conference involving one of its riders.
It gives rise to speculation that Bautista has come to a decision on his future, with the pomp and fanfare of calling a press conference intimating that he will use it to confirm his retirement at the end of the 2022 WorldSBK season, much like Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi did in 2019 and 2021.
Alternatively, it could also mark the confirmation of an extended deal between the two parties, which have dominated WorldSBK since teaming up again at the start of the 2022 WorldSBK season.
The announcement of the press conference comes after Bautista opened up on his options for the future last time out at Assen. While the Spaniard said he was yet to make a decision, he made it clear that he would only choose between extending his relationship with Ducati or ‘spending more time with my [his] family’.
If Bautista does indeed use the moment to call it quits at the end of the year, it will echo a similar strategy used by another iconic Ducati alumni - triple WorldSBK Champion Troy Bayliss - who announced his retirement months prior to his final outing.
Like Bayliss, Bautista is well placed to go out on a high too, the ex-MotoGP rider currently the dominant force of WorldSBK with eight wins from the opening nine races.
It’s a run of devastating form that has been gathering momentum since the start of the 2022 WorldSBK season when Bautista returned to Ducati following two lacklustre seasons on Honda machinery.
Making his WorldSBK debut with the factory Ducati squad in 2019, Bautista romped to 11 consecutive victories before a sharp decline in form mid-season cost him the title to Jonathan Rea. Even so, Bautista’s results on Ducati machinery have been extraordinary - in 82 starts on the Panigale V4 R, Bautista has emerged as the winner in 40 of them.
Prior to Bautista’s late career success in WorldSBK, he enjoyed a stellar career at GP level, winning the 125GP World Championship in 2006 and spending nine seasons in MotoGP.
He currently leads the 2023 WorldSBK Championship standings by 56 points over Yamaha’s Toprak Razgatlioglu - CLICK HERE for the full points’ table.