The push for MotoGP stewarding reform is being undermined

Somewhere between Enea Bastianini's on-track protest over back-to-back penalties in Barcelona and his Ducati teammate Picco Bagnaia's anger at being penalized for a handicap at Mugello a week later, criticism of MotoGP management jumped the shark.

The FIA ​​Honors Committee, led by Freddie Spencer, the 1982 and 1985 premier class champion, does not have high approval ratings among the MotoGP grid.

The riders have been openly rebellious over perceived inconsistencies and what some of them consider to be an overly casual approach to decision-making. Some of them feel that it is not worth their time to comment on the rulings of the stewards because they see them as more like the workings of ancient gods, entities beyond our understanding and all you can do is pray and hope for a bountiful harvest. Others take a similar stance because they feel it has all been said before.

And frankly, even at Mugello last weekend, there was a surprising decision when Miguel Oliveira avoided a penalty for dropping Fabio Quartararo with him from the race – a decision that sparked a heated ire from the Yamaha rider.

But the reason is chosen.

If Bastianini's challenge to Barcelona was at least understandable from a logical point of view – he had an argument to argue that he had been forced off course – and if it was not particularly defensible in terms of the form it took, Mugello offered two further cases of aggrieved parties sidestepping the issue. . The line between “correctly questioning the stewards” and “just objecting to every penalty your team receives”.

Bagnaya case

The first example of this was the drop from three places on the grid that Bagnaia received due to the impact felt by the stewards during Alex Marquez's flying lap in the final minutes of Friday practice.

Márquez canceled the lap and spent a few seconds giving Bagnaia a piece of his opinion afterwards, which led to Bagnaia derisively calling him a “showman”.

Ultimately, the showman later made it into the crucial top 10 to secure a place in Q2 – although this is irrelevant, given that the aborted effort was still a valid payroll during a qualifying-like session, which is not permitted for submission Compromises as a competitor regardless of its actual quality.

Ducati appealed the penalty but said it accepted the decision once it failed. But Bagnaia was certainly not acceptable.

“I'm still disappointed because I think it's ridiculous,” he said after winning the sprint. “We clearly showed what happened, and they decided to issue the penalty when I was talking to them. When I was talking, trying to help them understand what was happening, through the telemetry data, the penalty was announced.

“This is bad. This is bad. Nobody is happy. We have no consistency in terms of penalties.

“In Portimao I bumped into Mark [Marquez]We were both devastated. “If you don't crash, you'll have a long cycle,” they told me. But today what happened with [Jorge] Martin W [Enea] Bastianini. It was the same dynamic, right? No penalty.

“Or Oliveira/Quartararo. Or yesterday Oliveira/Martin. We don't have consistency, and so I'm starting to set a precedent that next time, if someone messes up my lap a little bit, I'll start making some plays to try to get a penalty for them. It's the way “It's the only thing possible, but no one is happy.”

Two different things are being mixed up here – if Bagnaia's claim about the stewards' assessment of his incident with Marc Marquez at Portimão is accurate, it is a valid concern, given that the corner dynamics between that and the Jorge Martin/Enea Bastianini incident were similar.

However, by the same token, “similar” does not mean “identical,” as there is a marked difference in both the initial thrust that created the conditions for the collision and the appearance of the turn. This points to a widespread suggestion in the current motorcycle world that similar incidents should always result in similar rulings, which is not practically possible.

But the relevant case here is that Oliveira obstructed Martin's lap in the same session.

Oliveira remained on the racing line the entire time, eliciting a lively reaction from Martin, and was never placed under investigation.

But we can at least get a good idea of ​​the stewards' reasoning – Oliveira was on an outside lap and cut back and was already at something resembling lap speed when Martin got to him.

Tires are sensitive, so Oliveira had a solid excuse for why he didn't want to slow down and accelerate again in the second half of his outfield, even if it was something that warranted a closer look. .

Bagnaia was on what had by then become a bosom. His case for his innocence was that he had already gone too far by the time Alex Marquez behind him reached the Corentayo racing line – but it seems clear from the footage that his presence close to the racing line, while at low speed, had a significant impact. Material impact on the younger Marquez's bosom. It was, at worst, a 50/50 score, not worthy of being described as a 'clown punishment' the next day.

Holgado case

Gas Tech 3 Gas, Moto 3

Exhibit B – perhaps most striking – is Tech3 team principal Herve Poncharal criticizing the stewards committee, in the team's official press release, for a lap-long double penalty handed down to Moto3 title contender Dani Holgado in the class's Mugello race.

The penalty came as a result of an accident that left José Antonio Rueda and Stefano Nepa off their bikes when the race resumed (after the red flag was raised for an accident and injury to Xavi Zorrotoza). This contributed to Holgado occupying fourteenth place, while his main competitor in the championship, David Alonso, won the race.

“At the start of the second half, Dani started well and did not make any mistakes in the first corner where he was trapped with other riders,” Poncharal said of the incident. “Unfortunately another contestant [Rueda] I touched it, it shattered, and I dropped another one [Nepa].

“We reviewed this incident several times in slow motion, and it was clear that it was just a racing event. We were incredibly shocked when Danny received a double penalty on the long lap, which ruined his race, and will have a huge impact on his career. Challenge for the title.

Dani Holgado, Tech3 Gas, Moto3

“We went in the direction of racing [stewards] And I couldn't get any explanation other than “ambitious/irresponsible riding maneuver.” I invite everyone to re-watch this incident, and explain to me how this deserves a double penalty for the long lap.

He added: “We have not been given any other explanation, and I think that when the championship is at stake, it is a real shame and a lack of respect on the part of the direction of the race.” [the stewards].

“I feel really sorry for Daniel Holgado and his crew who are working hard to fight for the title.”

However, the explanation for Holgado's penalty can be found elsewhere in Tech3's press release. As stated, “Holgado had difficulties braking into the first turn.”

It's fairly obvious from broadcast angles but is especially clear from helicopter footage. Holgado's bike writhes beneath him, all out of shape as he slams on the brakes at San Donato. He narrowly managed to halt the bike's momentum to avoid colliding with David Munoz up front, but when Rueda approached from behind, Holgado's bike was unmistakably moving sideways relative to the racing line, with it impossible for Rueda to react.

Can Holgado be left? certainly. Was a single long lap penalty better than a double penalty? probably. Was this an inexplicable miscarriage of justice? no.

The issue of “respect”

Freddie Spencer, MotoGP

Two examples in one weekend of MotoGP stewards being called “s**t” and a “real shame” over crashes that were at worst 50/50. This in itself is nothing remarkable – stewards get grief in every sport – but with the MotoGP World Championship in particular in something of an identity crisis in terms of policing its crashes, things like this don't help.

After all, why would an outsider take the constant complaints about the Spencer-led hospitality staff (above) seriously if even relatively conventional decisions are met with a barrage of anger? Why would the powers that be consider making changes when there is an excuse to wave things off as just a simple competitive concern.

Unsurprisingly, it was perhaps Aleix Espargaro who put it best over the weekend, offering his suggestion on how things could be improved (while agreeing with Bagnaia's penalty but expressing disbelief that Oliveira/Martin had not gone the same way). method).

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia, MotoGP

“For me, it's difficult because I don't want to talk bad about them,” he said of the referees. “Because I'm sure they are doing their best. But they are 20 years away from today's racing. We need someone who has been racing recently.

“We need someone who has been racing recently – not last year or two years ago, but not 25 years ago. [Somebody] Who knows MotoGP, who knows today's riding styles, who knows the tyres, who knows… they need someone there. Maybe they can continue to do their job, but they need someone else who knows more about the MotoGP World Championship in 2024.”

Espargaro explained that this person would not be him, but he also said: “On the other hand, you have to respect. It's as if they fined me for my mistake.” [Franco] Morbidelli [with the slap in Qatar]. I made a big mistake, I had to pay 10,000.

“It's as if I said 'I won't pay'. No, you have to. For me, it was a black flag at Barcelona for Enia.” [for ignoring penalties].

“If you want them to respect us, you have to respect them, too.”

“Respect” does not mean keeping things as they are, nor agreeing with every or even most decision. But “respect” at least covers not using the overall legitimacy crisis in supervision to respond to every punishment.


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