Keep an eye out Pecco

With Ducati set to announce Pecco's 2025 teammate soon, Nick Harris looks at big teammate rivalries from down the years

No wonder Pecco Bagnaia is smiling at the moment. A third win in a row and a Sprint and Grand Prix double at Mugello is obviously the main reason, but there are others. Before that first engine was even fired up in anger at the opening round of the season, the World Champion signed a new two-year extension to his Ducati contract which still had a year to run. Done, dusted and no clandestine meetings with other factories, constant press speculation and doubts about the future. Just get on with the job of defending that MotoGP™ world title with Ducati Lenovo for the third year running.

He must also be smiling about all the hype and speculation around on who will be his Ducati teammate next season. Of course, Bagnaia will be more than interested and may have been given the chance to voice his own opinion. All riders will tell you their number one priority in Grands Prix is to ensure you beat your team-mate. Seeing Mugello legend Valentino Rossi on the grid on Sunday was a reminder just how important the right teammate can be.

Vale’s first MotoGP™ world title came in 2001 when, for the second year, he was the single rider in the 500cc Nastro Azzurro Honda team. When the four-strokes arrived, he gave teammate rookie Nicky Hayden plenty of advice. Switching to Yamaha, teammates were no problem at first. Carlos Checa and Colin Edwards were no great threat to his superiority, but a certain young Spanish upstart was on the horizon.

Double 250cc Champion Jorge Lorenzo joined Rossi at Yamaha in 2008 and life in the garage was never quite the same. It was soon very obvious that Lorenzo was not prepared to play second fiddle to the World Champion and wanted his world title. Two years later he did just that and Yamaha were literally split right down the middle. A dividing wall was constructed down their pit lane garage at every Grand Prix. While the riders feud made the headlines, Yamaha just sat back and kept winning. Lorenzo won two more world titles with Rossi runner-up two more times.

Sometimes a teammate can wreck your chances of a world title. The 250cc World Champion Dani Pedrosa joined Nicky Hayden at Repsol Honda in 2006. At the penultimate round of the Championship Hayden led his former teammate Rossi by 12 points at Estoril in Portugal. Hayden was running in a comfortable third place when at turn six Pedrosa went down skittling Hayden out of the race. Hayden still won the world title when Rossi crashed in the final round. No need to build a dividing wall this time.

Being a teammate to the great Mick Doohan was never going to be easy. Alex Criville soon realised he would not be receiving Christmas cards from the five-time World Champion, especially after the 1996 Czech Republic Grand Prix in Brno. Criville shadowed his Repsol Honda teammate for the whole race before overtaking him at the final corner to win by 0.002s of one second. Mick was not amused.

Without a doubt the most difficult teammate in the 75-year history of the sport was seven times World Champion Phil Read. He was totally focused on winning at all costs, nothing was going to stand in his way and especially teammates. He fell out big time with MV Agusta teammate Giacomo Agostini and especially Yamaha teammate Bill Ivy. In 1968 the dominant Yamaha factory decided that Read would win the 125cc world title and Ivy the 250. Ivy helped Read to the 125 crown but Read reneged on the deal and also grabbed the 250cc title. Ivy never forgave him.

The greatest teammate battle for a world title came at the final race of the 2000 World 250cc Championship at Phillip Island. Olivier Jacque tailed his Tech3 Yamaha teammate Shinya Nakano until the final straight when he pulled out of his slipstream in the 25-lap race. He won the race by 0.014s and the title by seven points.

Keep an eye on what is going on next door Pecco. There could be some fun and game in that Ducati garage next season.