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MotoGP

Martin vs the world – Austria start crash fallout and penalty

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
10 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Jorge Martin has been issued a long-lap penalty for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix following lengthy deliberations by MotoGP stewards over the first-lap crash he triggered – after several of his peers had expressed or hinted at their displeasure over him not already being penalised during the sprint.

The multi-bike pile-up that kicked off the Saturday race began when Fabio Quartararo found himself sandwiched between Martin on the inside and a slow-starting Maverick Vinales on the outside, with initial contact between Quartararo and Martin causing a chain reaction.

None of the three aforementioned riders were taken out of the race – it was instead Marco Bezzecchi, Johann Zarco and Miguel Oliveira all finding themselves on the floor, their races curtailed, albeit Vinales and Quartararo were among those sent to the back.

Martin went on to finish third but still had an investigation hanging over him when he took the chequered flag – and he was subsequently late to the podium finisher press conference because he had been with the stewards, reviewing the incident.

The decision came long after Martin had left the stewards, who would also later summon Vinales to hear his side of the incident.

The stewards said Martin was found to have been “riding in an irresponsible manner”, which equates to a long-lap penalty – but in this case instead of a long-lap converted to a time penalty in Saturday’s classification it will just be a fresh penalty for Sunday.

Some of the riders involved in the incident were guarded in what they thought the ruling should be, but others were more open in feeling Martin had warranted a penalty.

“Immediately after the crash I didn’t know exactly what happened – then when I saw the video I understood. I think the video is quite clear. You can see by yourself,” said Bezzecchi, who hurt both of his shoulders in the incident.

“A little bit angry, but more sad. For sure it’s a corner that is quite tricky – but there are many ways to approach a corner, even if it’s tricky.

“I don’t want to judge, it’s their job. If they [the stewards] think it’s good like this, it’s their job. But I don’t agree.”

Quartararo said the corner layout had played a part, given its acute angle, but when asked whether any of the riders involved were specifically to blame he said: “I don’t want to get into it. I think that every rider does what they want, and at the end the responsibility of putting the penalties is… I think there are three stewards, they are doing hopefully the job that they need to do.”

“I didn’t see the incident yet, I just felt hits! I haven’t checked it yet,” said Vinales – although he then said that the description of the Turn 1 action suggested it was “a clear penalty” for Martin.

Martin’s Pramac team-mate Zarco largely concurred, describing Martin’s approach as “very optimistic” and theorising that the stewards had given Martin a “joker” in letting him get away scot-free because they felt they had wronged him with a “wrong” track limits penalty back in qualifying – something the verdict has now disproven.

“I don’t want to get into any polemics about it, it’s not me who decides, it’s the three men up there who really make the calls,” said Oliveira, but then added: “In my humble opinion, it’s clearly a long lap penalty immediately.

“There’s no need to wait one sector for it. He caused a collision, took many riders out in a domino effect.”

He also said it was “almost the same” as the Jerez multi-bike crash that had left Oliveira injured and resulted in a penalty for Quartararo.

The Gresini Ducati team wrote in its press release that Alex Marquez, who could’ve stood to benefit from a time sanction to Martin rather than a deferred long-lap penalty, was “denied the joy of a podium” by a “not awarded” penalty.

MARTIN’S DEFENCE

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For his part, Martin said he watched the incident “like 50 times” with the stewards and acknowledged it was “complicated from their side but also from my side”.

“I was keeping a straight line, for sure I feel I was going to do the corner on the inside quite comfortable but then some of the riders from the outside closed a bit the line, then Fabio closed on me, and he lost a bit the control.

“I think it was a combination of things. But I still think that it’s not my fault. I was doing a good line on the inside. For sure bad luck, I hope all the riders are OK but I guess it’s not my fault.

“For sure maybe some rider has to be punished – but I feel that it’s not my case. In case they want to penalise me, that’s why I pushed so hard to get those three seconds in front of the rider behind [Alex Marquez], in case some penalty is coming – I think it shouldn’t.”

Asked whether he carried too much speed into the corner, he said: “I think the speed was 100% correct. I fully closed, I touched the inside line on the corner, if you see on the helicopter [camera] or whatever. So I didn’t pull anybody outside. I think the speed was correct.”

And if Martin did view anyone as a culprit, it was a fellow rider that he refused to name but whose identity was obvious from context.

“I don’t want to say any names, but a rider from the outside was closing a lot the line, was changing his line completely from the outside to the inside,” he said, almost certainly referencing Vinales.

“I guess that’s why Fabio closed a little bit on me and then he lost a little bit the control.”


SIMON PATTERSON’S VERDICT

I have to admit that I find it very hard to understand how the penalty for effectively ending the race of five of your rivals can be a single long lap penalty likely to equate into a position or two at the chequered flag of a full length race.

The penalty perfectly highlights just one thing: how little room there is within the rigid and opaque world of MotoGP stewarding, especially in the context of other crashes that carried nowhere near the same amount of risk and penalty,

On one hand, it’s very simple to understand why the FIM MotoGP Stewards led by Freddie Spencer decided to hand Martin a single long lap penalty: because that is what their unofficial and unwritten rule book says is the sanction for, in their words, ‘causing a crash whilst overtaking [through] overly ambitious and/or aggressive resulting in another rider crashing’.

But that spectacularly fails to take into account the circumstances. Sure, by the letter of the law that is exactly what Martin did with his overly ambitions lunge up the inside of Quartararo at the Red Bull Ring’s Turn 1 – but it fails to acknowledge that he didn’t cause just one rider to fall, he caused three to come off and another two to essentially have their races ended.

Moreover, in the context of penalties handed out for the exact same thing, it’s completely disproportionate when you consider the Pramac Ducati rider’s eventual finishing position.

We’ve seen multiple riders in the past handed a long lap penalty for crashing out and taking another rider with them – but never before (under the current stewarding regime) has someone taken out even one rival and then gone on to finish on the podium.


MARINI’S REBUTTAL

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Martin went on to play a major part in another incident later in the race, as he lunged to overtake Luca Marini into the chicane and ended up making contact with the VR46 Ducati after entering the corner slightly ahead.

“Again, I watched again like 20 times the overtaking to Marini. I was already in front, he tried to keep a bit the position,” said Martin.

“I didn’t try to push him out, I was doing a correct line. I feel, sincerely, that I am a really clean rider. I try to overtake in a clean way always. But you know, today… it’s a pity that he crashed, because it creates some doubts, if I threw him out or not.

“But I feel again that I was in front and it wasn’t my fault. I tried to speak with him a little bit but he wasn’t in the box, but hopefully we can later.”

Marini’s sprint ended there and then, but the incident was ruled as requiring no further action after the race. For Marini, that wasn’t necessarily objectionable – rather, it was the fact the Martin was there racing him in the first place, instead of serving an in-race penalty for the earlier collision.

“That was more dangerous than what happened with me. With me I think it’s just something bad luck – his foot touched my handlebar and I crashed,” Marini said.

“It’s strange that, after what happened at Turn 1, the stewards didn’t take any decision, while with Fabio they took a decision very quickly to give him a long-lap penalty [for a collision with Lorenzo Savadori].”

When told by The Race of Martin’s Turn 1 justification, Marini said: “Yeah, OK, you made your corner – but you have to think that there are six bikes in front of you, in my opinion, in that moment. It’s impossible to think and explain everything like this.”

And when asked by The Race whether he thought Vinales was also to blame, Marini said: “I just saw the incident one time. For what I saw in that moment – I would like to penalise every time in that moment the rider that caused the collision, and not the rider that made a tighter line, started to close a little bit. Because… it’s something that everybody does, trying to avoid to get passed. But the guy who made the contact and started this collision is the rider that must be penalised. That maybe today is Jorge but another time is another.”

QUARTARARO’S PENALTY U-TURN

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Much of Marini’s argument hinged on the stewards electing to listen to Martin’s explanation post-race yet immediately assessing Quartararo a long lap after he barged into Aprilia tester Savadori at the Schlossgold corner.

That was also something that had irked Oliveira. “Race direction was really quick deciding things that don’t really matter, like giving a long lap penalty to Quartararo fighting for 16th place. A guy who is second in the championship and makes this kind of move into Turn 1, they don’t do anything.”

The Quartararo/Savadori incident was a crash that the Frenchman said he’d initially felt at fault for – only to see a replay and change his mind.

This was because Quartararo saw Savadori look over his shoulder after their Schlossgold contact – with the Italian in the process of trying to locate the source of the nudge while going wide into the corner and eventually having his RS-GP get away from under him.

“Before looking at the images, I felt like I deserved a long lap. But looking at the images – I feel I don’t deserve it!

“But it’s not my job, my job is just to ride at my 100%. When you are struggling that much to overtake, I had to find a way to pass, and was the only way.

“I went to see him straight away. Nothing serious.

“It’s strange, because when I touched him, I thought that when I touched, he crashed. But I touched – and he looked the other way around. Automatically, when you are leaning on the right and you look on the left… it’s strange. He didn’t really crash from my contact.”

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