Phillip Island. Australian MotoGP. Viñales, Iannone and Dovizioso celebrate their podium finishes. But there is someone else who also has good reason to celebrate. Fourth at the chequered flag is Alvaro Bautista, onboard the official Ducati in place of Jorge Lorenzo who sat this GP out - injured with his left wrist.
Ducati is obviously not new to Bautista, he currently rides for Angel Nieto’s Team on a GP17 model - very different from the official GP18 Desmosedici though.
Yet the Spaniard impressed at his first outing on a new bike, with a new team at Ducati’s least favourite track.
From starting on the 4th row, Bautista achieved a fourth final place on the 28th of October in Australia, battling for the podium against Iannone, Rossi and his teammate for the weekend Andrea Dovizioso.
It was his best result of the whole 2018 Moto GP season after an already impressive 5th place in Motegi.
His performance did not pass unnoticed, leading to obvious comparisons with Lorenzo who scored just an eleventh place on his first Ducati outing.
The fact remains the former 125cc World Champion is set to leave MotoGP for World Superbike Championship at the end of this 2018 season after securing a deal with factory Ducati to replace Marco Melandri - jumping on the new Panigale V4 in the production based championship.
On the one hand, this step may give Alvaro the chances to battle at the front, something that was not possible with a satellite Team in Moto GP. "If you haven’t got the right package you are not able to show your real value”, said Bautista.
On the other hand, his performance in Phillip Island has shown he may not be finished in the Blue Ribband MotoGP class just yet.
Why the rush to ditch him? Why the impossibility for him to find another seat in MotoGP and the resulting fall back on World Superbike Championship?
Strangely, Lorenzo’s best performances with Ducati came after his deal with Honda for next season, and now Bautista! Is this a case of results arrived too late? Contracts signed too early?
Or was it simply the result of circumstance - being on a top bike and having nothing to lose?
After losing Lorenzo to Honda, Ducati MotoGp Team must wonder if they’ve done the right thing.