until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Zarco consigned to pitlane start for Morbidelli crash

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Avintia Ducati rider Johann Zarco has been hit with a pitlane start penalty for MotoGP’s Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, following last weekend’s high-speed collision with Franco Morbidelli.

The sanction was first reported by The Race earlier this morning and confirmed during the first free practice session in the MotoGP class.

In a brief statement, the panel confirmed that “there was evidence of irresponsible riding” from Johann Zarco.

Zarco presented his case to the stewards yesterday, as did Morbidelli – but the Frenchman was confident afterwards that he would not receive a punishment for the crash, after believing that he had properly presented his case to the FIM officials.

“I was really able to explain to the stewards what I did to overtake Morbidelli, and we had good proof with the data,” Zarco said. “In my opinion it should not be any penalties because I didn’t do anything crazy, and I explained this correctly to them. I think that they understood it, because they weren’t really answering me and they agreed with me.”

Dialling back his initial post-race comments, when he called Zarco “half a killer”, Morbidelli acknowledged that it wasn’t an intentional clash, but was still adamant that Zarco needed to be sanctioned for his actions.

“I went to talk to the stewards and they had different camera angles from the accident,” Morbidelli said. “The images were talking for themselves. We had a chance to look at the incident from a different angle and I have to tell you that from there it looks even more nasty.

“I will say that I am sorry for what I called Johann after the race. It was too strong a statement. The fact remains that he made a mistake and that Johann’s mistakes or actions could have ended way worse than how it did, but it was still a mistake. I’m not in his head and I don’t know his feelings, so I can only judge his actions.”

Morbidelli also explained for the first time why he felt so strongly that Zarco was being reckless, making the case that it was the Ducati rider’s line through the preceding corner that caused everything.

“Clearly Johann took a funny line, a line that nobody went on all weekend, a super tight line into Turn 2, just to cut ground and overtake me. I think that the aim was to overtake and then to think about the braking later.

“The problem is that when he cut the ground he still didn’t overtake me completely and he went wide after the corner. I couldn’t avoid the collision because I couldn’t go inside because there was no space and I couldn’t go outside because I would have ended up on the grass.”

Zarco still needs to be passed fit to ride after Sunday’s crash, after undergoing an operation to have a pin installed into his broken right scaphoid on Wednesday. Unable to be passed fit yesterday thanks to MotoGP’s 48-hour automatic ban after general anesthesia, he will sit out Friday’s free practice.

The penalty imposed will not be for Sunday’s race but for the first race in which Zarco can start, meaning that should he be fit enough to race on Sunday but not able to complete the race, he can still serve the sanction.


“I need to wait 48 hours to have a medical check and see if I am fit for Saturday,” Zarco said. “I hope so because now, 24 hours after surgery, I feel better but not good enough to ride. Hopefully after another 24 hours I will be fit enough to go on the bike and do laps.

“To miss Friday’s practice isn’t a big drama because we have all the references from last week and being at the same track again is a big benefit. It’s a track where Ducati have been going fast as well.”

The move will reignite controversy about the consistency from the FIM stewards, however, given the severity of the sanction.

The last rider handed a pitlane start penalty for a disciplinary matter was Alonso Lopez at last year’s Czech Grand Prix, when he was sent to the back at the Red Bull Ring for shoving team-mate Sergio Garcia after Garcia wiped him out during the race.

The most recent direct comparison to Zarco’s case is perhaps Andrea Iannone in 2016, when he was forced to start the Dutch TT from the back of the grid after wiping out Jorge Lorenzo at the Catalan Grand Prix only five races after ending his factory Ducati career by taking down team-mate Andrea Dovizioso from second in the final corner in Argentina.

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