Who's in the frame for Gresini's vacant Ducati seat?

Di Giannantonio, Morbidelli, Zarco, Arbolino & Dixon… we assess the names that have been linked to be Alex Marquez’ teammate in 2024

After Alex Marquez was confirmed to be staying at Gresini Racing MotoGP™ for the 2024 MotoGP™ campaign, the Ducati Independent Team have one seat up for grabs – and it’s a sought-after one.

With rider market talk rife as we enter a crucial period for sorting out contracts for next season, let’s assess who’s being linked with the remaining Gresini ride for next season.

Current Gresini Racing MotoGP™ rider, Fabio Di Giannantonio, was asked about his future on Sunday after the British GP. The Italian didn’t give much away but sounded positive about where his future lies – whether that’s with Gresini or elsewhere.

“From my side it’s quite clear but at the moment I don’t want to think about it. I want to just focus on racing. Once you do a good job on track, then off track everything will be easier. I think it’s a matter of time to know what my future is but it’s really bright I think,” said Di Giannantonio.

If Ducati and Gresini opt to not continue with Di Giannantonio for 2024, then two Moto2™ race winners have emerged as candidates for a move into MotoGP™ - Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) and Jake Dixon (GASGAS Aspar Team).

The latter was asked about his future ahead of his home round in the British Grand Prix pre-event Press Conference. Unsurprisingly, Dixon expressed his desire to move into the premier class but at the same time acknowledged there’s not a lot of room in the inn.

“100%, I want to be in the MotoGP class. I feel much more comfortable, even when I did those couple of races in Silverstone and Aragon,” said the British star, talking about his stand-in rides at Petronas Yamaha SRT in 2021.

“There are limited spaces and a lot of riders, Frankie (Carchedi), my manager, is talking to everyone that he needs to talk to and who’s available and he’ll do the best that he can do. There’s no more I can do. I remember him saying to me coming into Assen, ‘What will help the situation is if you win’. So I went out and won. If I continue doing it in that way it’ll obviously make the job a lot easier for him to do his job so yeah, I’ve just got to perform and let’s see what happens,” continued Dixon.

The #96 has close ties with Gresini already, with his manager Carchedi currently working as Di Giannantonio’s crew chief. Whether that has any bearing on the situation remains to be seen, but the Briton is in the frame for the ride. Speaking to Crash.net, Carchedi said that if a place is available for Dixon in MotoGP™ then it’ll become clearer in the next couple of weeks.

Title-chasing Arbolino has long been linked with a move into MotoGP™ with Gresini, and he too will have a clearer vision of what his future looks like over the next couple of weeks. Arbolino to Gresini is a switch that makes sense – a fast, young Italian being promoted into an Italian team racing Italian bikes.

Arbolino’s manager, Carlo Pernat, is also closely linked with Gresini after Enea Bastianini’s (Ducati Lenovo Team) success with the team. And Arbolino's form in 2023, a run that's seen him only just concede a slender Championship lead to Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo), certainly warrants a potential step up into the premier class. 

Then there’s Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing). With Ducati Corse Sporting Director, Paolo Ciabatti, admitting they’d like to see Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) on a Ducati next year, the Frenchman’s future has become a little more uncertain.

Zarco currently sits P5 in the World Championship and is a valuable asset to Ducati, so if they want to keep the #5 it’ll almost certainly be either where he is at Prima Pramac or at Gresini. However, Zarco has been heavily linked to a potential move to LCR Honda for 2024, with LCR boss Lucio Cecchinello admitting that talks have been held with the double World Champion’s team.  

The aforementioned Morbidelli is also a potential candidate for the Gresini seat. Ciabatti’s comments at Silverstone confirmed the Bologna brand’s strong interest in the 2020 MotoGP™ runner-up after it was confirmed he’d be leaving Yamaha at the end of the season.

His close ties with VR46 make Mooney VR46 Racing Team the likely destination, but that depends on what Marco Bezzecchi and Ducati decide to do. If Bezzecchi is to race Ducati’s latest spec machinery then he’ll have to make the switch to Prima Pramac. Contractually, they’re the team who will have Ducati’s 2024 bikes alongside the factory set-up.  

However, if Bezzecchi is to stay at Mooney VR46 for 2024, then Morbidelli’s options at Ducati become a toss-up between Prima Pramac and Gresini – the latter seemingly the more likely fit. Once Bezzecchi’s immediate future is decided, the jigsaw pieces at Ducati should start falling into place relatively quickly.

Di Giannantonio, Morbidelli, Zarco, Arbolino and Dixon. Gresini and Ducati aren’t short of fast riders to partner Alex Marquez in 2024, but who will it be? The lead-up to the Austrian GP will be a crucial period of the season in terms of sorting contracts out for 2024, so it shouldn’t be too long before we’re learning who will be lining up at Gresini Racing next year.

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