VR46 rider Luca Marini believes MotoGP may need to look at reducing the lap counts for its main event Sunday races now that Saturday sprints have been introduced.
In a massive change to the conventional weekend format, MotoGP has added half-distance Saturday sprint races to each of the 21 grands prix in 2023, with these sessions taking the place of one of the four practices.
The series has been keen to accentuate that riders’ overall mileage per weekend should remain the same even with the change – but with riders keenly aware that a race is a different level of intensity to a practice session, it has led to a behind-the-scenes debate over how the sprints should be reflected in existing contractual agreements.
With no rider union in place, this will presumably be something to be hashed out on a case-by-case basis – especially as series promoter Dorna has suggested it is a matter for teams and riders to work out – but Marini acknowledged there seemed to be an underestimation of the extra workload the sprints represent.
“[Now that] the format has changed, everybody’s just saying: ‘OK riders, this is the new format, you earn the same money, you have to do the same things – because more races, more fun for you! Yeah! So, just have fun’,” he answered with his usual vivacious tone when asked by The Race about the situation.
“‘In my times, if I had more races, would be just better’ [is what they say] when you speak with old riders. And yeah, it’s fantastic [for them] – because they’re not riding now.
“I’m not against them, I for sure say the same thing, I agree with them, for sure it’s more fun also for us. Because we want to race.
“It’s incredible to race in MotoGP. And more races, yeah, it’s more fun. But it’s also our job. It’s our life, our sacrifices during the day. Because you are a MotoGP rider 365 days during all the year. You cannot have so much free time. You have a lot of stress also.
“The effort of the new race will be unbelievable.”
And, beyond the question of compensation, this was something Marini felt may need to be tackled in other ways, especially as MotoGP would have been heading into its busiest season ever in 2023 even without the sprint.
“We need also to think. Try to maybe ask to reduce some laps of the races,” he said.
“For me it’s not a problem now – I’m really prepared and I like my bike, I’m really comfortable on my bike. I will be ready. But I expect that for a lot of riders [this] will be a problem.
“I know that in [World] Superbike they make three races [per weekend], yes, but they make the longest one of 20 laps for example, while we make 27. And the last seven laps are very long.”
WSBK pivoted to its three-races-per-weekend format in 2019, placing a ‘Superpole race’ between the full-length Saturday and Sunday contests – with the length of those remaining largely unchanged.
MotoGP Sunday grands prix in 2023 are planned as being on average 21km longer than full-length WSBK races.
Racing laps comparison
WSBK 2022 calendar: 621 laps
WSBK 2023 calendar: 616 laps (-5)
MotoGP 2022 calendar: 495 laps
MotoGP 2023 calendar: 767 laps (+272)
“So maybe we can also, if it’s possible, try to reduce laps,” Marini continued.
“Because I know that now the important thing is to try to have a better show for the fans – to have more money for the people working in this paddock and for the riders.
“So we need to understand in which way we can be better for this side.”
Marini went on to caution that the sprints needed to come hand in hand with an evaluation of how to make the current technical package more conducive to on-track battles.
“We try to give a better show to the people with overtakes, with different fights, with dualism [rivalry] because it’s also very important in the sport to have two-three riders fighting each other in every race,” he said.
“But also on the technical side we need to speak with Dorna, in the safety commission, because to make overtakes is not so easy.
“So I expect that also in the sprint races, that is a jungle, and every rider wants to win and make a little bit of chaos, [so it] will be difficult – maybe we’ll be just 15 riders in a row for 10 laps, trying to do something but in the end they don’t!
“In the end this is not a good show.”