MotoGP race stewards have once again come under fire from many of the grid after qualifying at the Teruel Grand Prix, as confusion followed Saturday’s Q2 session at the Motorland Aragon circuit.
The order of the grid for Sunday’s race was reshuffled not once but twice in the minutes after the chequered flag went out when a number of riders were docked their fastest laps of the session, only to then have them reinstated minutes later.
First, the stewards docked the times for not slowing for yellow flags after Esponsorama Ducati rider Johann Zarco crashed in the final seconds of the session – and then reverted back to the initial finishing order after deeming the flags to have only been out only for a few seconds thanks to the nature of Zarco’s crash.
That left Pol Espargaro, promoted and then demoted again, leading the criticism towards the stewards – something that has become a common trend in recent races.
“We know how race direction works – they took out laps only to give them back again and it’s a mess,” KTM rider Espargaro said after the session.
“If the rule is applied for everyone, in the same way, it’s good, but the problem is that it’s not. How can you cancel a lap and then give it back again? If there’s a yellow flag, why do you give it back?
“Last weekend I couldn’t finish my lap because someone was in front of me in the last corner almost stopped, and I almost crashed. It was super clear – and nothing happened to him. Then in the Czech Republic they took my lap away when the yellow flag was so far away that I couldn’t see it.
“If they applied the rules to everyone the way they did to me, if they applied them the same to everyone, then that’s fair. But if you don’t apply the rule to everyone it’s going to become a problem – you can’t decide when you are going to apply it.”
Espargaro’s thoughts were echoed by Jack Miller, who watched the Q2 session from the sidelines after failing to progress from Q1.
He too complained about the way the rules are applied, especially between classes – something becoming increasingly apparent after sanctions for riding slowly during sessions were increased this weekend specifically for the Moto3 class.
“It shows that the system is flawed,” Miller said afterwards.
“In Moto3 they enforce this and that, about not doing slow out-laps and that, but in MotoGP riders are allowed to go out and be 30 seconds off the pace waiting for a tow.
“I don’t understand it, because we’re supposed to be setting a good example for the younger guys and we’re not. Race direction needs to take a good look at themselves and enforce the rules everywhere.”
On Friday, Miller was also docked a fast lap time for a yellow flag infringement set early in FP2 after the session, leaving him fuming about the delay in informing him.
“I went out and pushed for race pace, and I did a not bad lap at the start of the session,” Miller said afterwards.
“But it takes them 30 fucking minutes to delete the lap. I don’t know what these c**** are doing up there, but anyway…”
Miller had complained of a similar situation after FP3 for last weekend’s Aragon Grand Prix.
The Race contacted MotoGP promoter Dorna on the matter but it refused to comment.
MotoGP briefed riders earlier this year about greater penalties for yellow flag infringements following a gravel trap near-collision between Miller and Alex Rins, altering the ruling so that a fast sector time set past a yellow flag would be automatically docked.
But the rule change seems to have had little effect on how racers approach the final minutes of qualifying, with Cal Crutchlow (one of those initially docked yesterday) admitting that they still push just as hard as before when the flags go out.
“We saw a bike crash, we saw no yellow flags, but we never do because we’re doing 350kph there,” Crutchlow said. “We saw no flags, we got our time docked, and I think they went up to race direction but I never went up because I was basically in the same position anyway.
“It’s too far away. All we saw was a bike crash and dust about five seconds in front of us. Now I bet it took them more than five seconds to put the yellow flag out, so it seems like we’re in the right.
“But the rule is stupid. We race motorbikes and we can crash, so to one extent, I agree with the rules.
“But everyone wants the show. If there’s a crash every lap, there’s no show. It’s not an easy one for or for us. The reality is that when you come to the last corner you’re not going to shut off, and you can crash – I almost did yesterday, just after Zarco’s crash.”