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MotoGP

Riders say MotoGP’s now ‘boring’ and overtaking impossible

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP faced a fresh round of accusations from riders of boring racing decided entirely by qualifying – plus comparisons to Formula 1’s aerodynamic problems – after Saturday’s sprint race at the German Grand Prix.

The blunt comments from both race-winning Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro and second-year MotoGP rider Raul Fernandez came after they spent an afternoon stuck in the pack and being unable to make any substantial headway at the notoriously tricky to overtake Sachsenring circuit.

It’s not exactly a new complaint with many believing the increased aerodynamics and ride height devices have neutered the competitiveness that the championship enjoyed as recently as only a few seasons ago.

We’re now 13 races into the 2023 season, and there’s only been a single last-lap overtake for the win – at the very first sprint race of the year at Portimao back in March.

That’s far removed from the situation in seasons like 2017, 2018 and 2019, when last-lap battles between Marc Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso and Fabio Quartararo very much defined the thrilling action on track.

With the ride height devices and aero both creating dirty air that limits overtaking and overloading Michelin’s front tyre to the point where the temperature (and therefore the pressure) spikes unless you can find a clean path and cool air, Espargaro says races are now being decided during Saturday morning qualifying sessions.

“I don’t want to blame MotoGP,” he told the media after finishing the sprint ninth from 10th on the grid, “but MotoGP now is boring. It’s everything about the qualifying. If you do a good qualifying, then you can do a good race because of all the fresh air that you receive.

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“If you are back on the grid, even if you have very strong pace, it’s very difficult. It’s difficult and it’s frustrating. It’s all about the qualifying and the start, everything.”

He wasn’t the only rider at the Sachsenring to express that view, either, with satellite compatriot Raul Fernandez left even more frustrated than Espargaro after a difficult race that he finished in 18th and last place having started 19th.

“To be honest right now we have a big problem in the championship because 80% of the race is on Saturday morning,” he said.

“In the end, you cannot overtake. This is what happened in my race. I think I overtook two or three riders on the first lap, but later when I tried to overtake another one I couldn’t stop the bike because of the slipstream.

“I had to put the bike straight and go wide, because if not maybe I would have touched three or four riders. The problem is that now everyone is in a position where we take a lot of risk. You saw [Marc] Marquez in qualifying.

“We take a lot of risk just to try and do one fast lap because we know the pace doesn’t matter, how you manage the tyre doesn’t matter, more or less everything doesn’t matter. You just stay where you are. If you try to overtake a little more, you take a lot of risk and you can crash. It’s something that’s difficult.”

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His experience of only joining the championship since the explosion of new technologies that has led to this situation, means he can make a more direct comparison to current Moto2. He says that one of the main revelations of his time in MotoGP has been a greater understanding of some of the previously confusing crashes he watched while still in the intermediate class.

“The problem now is very similar to Formula 1,” Fernandez added. “In the end, you need clean air, because the wings work by trying to hold down the bike to the ground. During the race, with the slipstream in Turn 11, I was like this [leaned over] and with the slipstream I was having wheelie. I was saying ‘no no no no no’ and trying to pick up the bike before I crashed.

“That is the problem. Why in Moto2 do you not have any problems? Because in the end you don’t have the wings. Of course you have the slipstream and you have to brake early, but you know that your tyre will have the same support as always. Here, if you don’t have clean air you don’t have the same support from the tyre.

“Before coming into MotoGP, honestly I said that it’s not like this. But it’s amazing. I never forget Aragon in 2021, when Marquez was with his brother and he crashed in the last corner. I asked ‘why did he crash?’ Later, he explained with the wings he lost a lot of support on the front tyre and I didn’t believe it was like this. But it’s even more than he explained!”

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