Ducati boss Livio Suppo has hinted that the Italian team has not yet ruled out signing Dani Pedrosa for 2010, in spite of Honda's recent announcement that it wants to keep its current rider lineup.
Honda has yet to officially confirm the Spaniard for next year, although HRC president Tetsuo Suzuki said last month that the Japanese company had reached a "basic" agreement with the Spanish rider.
Ducati, whose star rider Casey Stoner is not currently racing as he continues with his recovery, was interested in hiring Jorge Lorenzo, but he turned down the offer and announced he was staying at Yamaha.
Former world champion Nicky Hayden, meanwhile, has failed to make a big impression in his first season with Ducati, and only he scored his first podium of the season at Indianapolis last Sunday.
Although Suppo admitted he was delighted with the result, he acknowledged there's a group of four riders – Stoner, Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi – who are in a league apart. The Italian suggested Ducati is still waiting on Pedrosa before sorting out Hayden's future within the factory squad.
"We are extremely happy with Nicky's podium," Suppo told Italia1 television. "We were a bit fortunate with the two crashes, but anyway he deserved a good result because he's never given up, he's always believed in it, and the bike has improved. We've seen for the umpteenth time that there are some guys in a different sport, while among the human ones he was there."
He added: "As I've just said: there are four guys in a different sport. One of them hasn't signed yet. However, a place for Nicky could always be found."
Hayden conceded that, despite his podium finish, he was still cautious about his chances of returning to the sharp end of the field.
"We've slowly made some progress," said the American. "I knew it (a podium) would be tough, but we were able to do it and certainly hope we can build on this. Not that we're out of the woods or nothing else, enjoy it for now but go to Misano.
"Every time I start getting too confident, this bike puts me back in my place real quick, and I have to start over. So just stay relaxed and just stay humble, stay hungry and not get too confident yet. But like you say, still a lot of racing to go, and a couple tracks I really like."