When white flags are issued by Race Direction during a MotoGP race, allowing riders to swap machines due to rain, it should be compulsory for all riders to pit for their wet weather bikes.
That is the opinion of double world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who feels such a move would make the current 'flag-to-flag' system much safer. The bike swap option, introduced in 2005, is considered the 'least worst' solution to avoid stopping a race due to the arrival of rain.
However, as highlighted by accidents for Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa at Aragon, the system encourages riders - especially those leading in the closing stages - to risk staying on slicks due to the time lost by pulling into the pits.
|Dani Pedrosa is thrown off his Repsol Honda will trying to remain on slicks tyres in the Aragon rain. Race leader Marc Marquez fell soon after for the same reason.|
Lorenzo timed his own bike change to perfection for victory at Aragon, but would later lose out after pitting unnecessarily when light rain began falling in the Valencia finale.
“In my opinion for the show, for the entertainment, [flag-to-flag] is very good,” Lorenzo said at Sepang, the round before his ill-timed Valencia pit stop.
“For the safety of the riders I believe that it is not the best option. I understand that stopping a race for live television is difficult, but to race with slicks in my opinion is too dangerous.
“I said that one possibility is when the white flag is waving, to make the riders enter [the pits]. Don't say 'it's raining, you can
now enter the pits if you want'. Instead say 'you must
enter'. This would be good.
“I think if the white flag is waved and then all riders have two laps to enter [the pits] it would be a good option. But they didn't like my proposal so I think it will stay the same.”
The problem is that, while rain may be falling in one area, which would currently prompt Race Direction to make bike swaps an option, the rest of the track may still be too dry for wet tyres.
A minimum number of marshal posts reporting rain could be used as a trigger for enforcing bike swaps, but that still wouldn't take into account the difference between light drizzle and a heavy downpour.
Perhaps the easiest solution would be to set a cut-off maximum lap time, averaged between the race leaders, to determine if a circuit has become too dangerous for slicks and that all riders yet to change bikes must now do so.
For example, 10 seconds slower than the best (dry) lap of the weekend, or 110% percent of that lap time, to take into account track length. If no dry laps had been completed prior to the race, the official circuit record could be used.
The downside is that race leaders would then have further motivation to push on slicks, in order to stay under the target lap time. However with slicks losing their grip if not being 'worked' hard enough, cruising is not an option.
The rumoured return of intermediate tyres for the new Michelin era in 2016 could also strengthen the case for forced pit stops, with riders (or more precisely their teams) able to choose intermediate or wets for the second bike.
Among the other changes considered to make flag-to-flag safer was for each rider to wait for a fixed period of time (for example ten seconds) at their pit garage while changing bikes.
This was aimed at trying to improve pit lane safety, but would be difficult to monitor and, unless used in conjunction with compulsory bike swaps, would make riders even less inclined to pit due to further time lost.
Dorna director Javier Alonso pledged to look at ways to make flag-to-flag racing safer
, alongside the removal of artificial grass, following the Aragon round.
|Jorge Lorenzo swaps bikes.|