3 March 2016
MotoGP Penalty Points change, no ‘irresponsible’ statements
Riders only punished if they reach ten Penalty Points - Teams and Riders must not make statements 'considered irresponsible and damaging' to MotoGP Championship.
The range of punishments handed out for accumulating Penalty Points in MotoGP has been reduced to simply a race disqualification, if a rider reaches ten points within one calendar year.
Meanwhile a new 'condition' has been added to the Sporting Regulations warning that: 'Teams and Riders must not make statements or issue press releases that are considered to be irresponsible and hence damaging to the Championship'.
Both moves are the latest reaction to last year's controversy involving two of the sports biggest stars, Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez.
Rossi claimed Marquez was trying to help Jorge Lorenzo win the title, the pair then sensationally clashing on track at the penultimate round in Sepang. Rossi was punished with three Penalty Points which, combined with an earlier point, meant a back of the grid start at Valencia.
Tensions were so high that organisers were concerned about crowd safety at the final round. Fortunately there was no disturbance, although the social media frenzy continued long after the race, where Rossi believes Marquez protected Lorenzo, who won the race and title.
The new ruling means that the previous punishments for a rider reaching four Penalty Points (back of the grid start) and seven points (pit lane start) have been removed. Taken at face value, it means Rossi would not have started last at Valencia.
However Rossi could still have received the same punishment directly, instead of getting Penalty Points. This is because Race Direction can choose from 'one of the following penalties': Penalty Points, fine, change of position, ride through, time penalty, drop of any number of grid position at the rider's next race, disqualification, withdrawal of Championship points, suspension.
Given the difficulty in reaching ten Penalty Points (it has never happened yet), it is safe to assume the other punishments listed above will now become more common. The intention of the new Stewards Panel being to try and hand out more punishments during the race in which the infringement occurs.
The change to the Penalty Point system thus replaces a 'clarification' published with January's provisional version of the 2016 MotoGP rules, which declared riders would only serve the back of grid start and pit lane start once, until reaching ten points.
This was to solve the issue of, for example, Rossi receiving a second back-of-the-grid start if he receives 1 penalty point after his Misano 2015 point expires in September, but before the 3 points from Sepang are wiped clear in October.
Meanwhile, the organisers now have a mechanism with which to clamp down on what they view as 'irresponsible' comments, seen by those in charge as fueling last season's meltdown.
However it does not state who will decide what is considered 'irresponsible and hence damaging' or what the punishment might be.
“A new condition has been included in the regulations which reflects obligations on teams and riders already included in the Team Participation Agreements concerning public pronouncements.
"The effect of the regulation is that Teams and Riders must not make statements or issue press releases that are considered to be irresponsible and hence damaging to the Championship.
"Of course, the new regulation does not seek to prohibit responsible expressions of legitimate disagreement with the MotoGP Management, Organisers and/or MotoGP policies.”
F1 has a similar rule, should a competitor "bring the Championship into disrepute".
It is unclear which particular statements or releases have prompted the MotoGP rule amendment but Honda, Yamaha, Repsol as well as the riders themselves expressed some strong opinions after the Sepang and Valencia races.
The pre-event press conference at Valencia was cancelled to try and limit acrimony between the riders, who were told not to discuss Sepang until after the final race.
The other major change in response to last season's controversy has been the (previously announced) creation of a new panel of judges to decide on any rider punishments.
“The Panel of Stewards will be known as the FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel and they will be responsible for deciding on penalties that are not considered to be matters of fact. Anyone receiving a penalty from the FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel may appeal to the FIM MotoGP Court of Appeal which is required to hear and rule on any appeals within four days.”
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