Tyre pressures: ‘We won’t know if we're on the podium or disqualified’

The stricter monitoring of tyre pressures in MotoGP this season was a cause of concern for riders at the Sepang test.
Johann Zarco, Sepang MotoGP test, 11 February
Johann Zarco, Sepang MotoGP test, 11 February

While the minimum tyre pressures specified by Michelin, 1.9 bar for the front and 1.7 for the rear, are unchanged, policing of the rule will now be done using real time measurements while the bike is on track.

As MotoGP’s director of technology Corrado Cecchinelli, tasked with creating the new system to appease the manufacturers and Michelin, previously explained to Crash.net:

“The principle of the rule itself is not changing, which is you have to use the tyres in a working range that the supplier wants them to operate in for safety.

“[But] there will be clear pressure requirements for a timed lap to be accepted, or for race to be considered as compliant with the rules.”

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Since tyre pressures fluctuate throughout a lap, let alone a race, a generous level of tolerance is likely to be given before declaring that the minimum has been officially breached:

“These requirements are still under discussion, but the concept is a lap is good if the tyre is above the minimum pressure for a specified amount of time during that lap.

“For a race, the concept is you calculate the average pressure over each lap and then the number of laps for which the average pressure was above the minimum.

"So the requirement might be, for instance, that the average pressure must be above the minimum for half of the number of race laps.

“There's a danger of seeing a lot of cancelled laps [and disqualifications]. So it's already been agreed that, although we are introducing the new system from the start of next season, we are not applying [penalties] until after at least three races.”

Despite the three-round amnesty before the exact ‘pass/fail’ tolerance is decided, riders believe their starting tyre pressures will need to be higher than before.

That’s not so much of a problem in practice and qualifying, where on-track pressures are more predictable, but races (sprint and full) present are a more complicated scenario.

If a rider is battling in the pack, their front tyre pressure can soar compared to those in clean air, most notably the race leader.

As such, the same rider and bike, using the same starting tyre pressures, could be deemed illegally low if they spend most of a race in the lead, but legal if they closely follow another rider.

To be 100 percent certain of avoiding a penalty, teams will therefore need to set the starting tyre pressure high enough to remain above the minimum threshold even if the rider, perhaps against all odds, leads (or rides alone) for large parts of the race.

But being in a close battle at some stage is much more likely than riding alone. And if that happens, the already high starting pressure combined with ‘heat’ of battle, could push the pressure to a level at which grip is compromised.

Alex Marquez, Sepang MotoGP test, 10 February
Alex Marquez, Sepang MotoGP test, 10 February

Alex Marquez: ‘We won't know if we're on the podium or disqualified

“You never know where we you will be in a race. [It’s okay] if you are alone at the front… But if you are behind someone and the pressure goes up to more than 2.2 [bar] you will crash,” warned new Gresini Ducati rider Alex Marquez.

“So it's not really fair. And you know, we will arrive [at the finish] and we will not know if we're on the podium or we are [disqualified] with zero points.

“If [the dashboard says] you are too low in the race there is nothing you can do about it on the bike. Only pull over and let someone go ahead!”

The Spaniard feels the best solution would be to make the front tyre exempt from the real-time checks.

“The front one, honestly for me, has not really any sense. Especially for the race because it can be unsafe. For the rear, I totally agree,” explained Marquez, who said he rode for the entire test, including time attacks, above the minimum pressure.

“But being too low in the front is not an advantage. The first [three] races will be without that rule then after they will make the decision [on tolerance levels]. But the front, I think they will not put it.”

Francesco Bagnaia, Sepang MotoGP test, 12 February
Francesco Bagnaia, Sepang MotoGP test, 12 February

Bagnaia: ‘When you follow someone it is more dangerous’

Ducati’s reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia had similar worries over soaring front pressure in a race situation.

“We did all the [test] with higher pressure [even if] at the moment the ‘law’ is not fixed so we can continue like the past years. Sincerely the [new] law could be a problem because when you follow someone it is more dangerous because the pressure is becoming too high.

“In the [test] I was always above 2 [bar] and riding alone I was feeling quite good.

But for sure if I am starting with that pressure in a race and then I’m behind someone then it will be a problem.

“Maybe in the next test I will follow someone to have that feeling… [because] if the law has to be like this, then we have to fix everything.”


Binder: It’s complicated, but not my problem!

KTM’s Brad Binder revealed that tyre pressure can rise by as much as 0.5 bar when battling another rider.

“In practice sessions it is never low, because you don’t have bikes in front of you. It’s normal and stays normal,” said the South African. “The reason that people were often under [in races] last year is because you need to start low and for some reason if you have 1.5-2 seconds to the guy in front of you it doesn’t come up. But if you are on the guy’s back wheel it can come up as much as 0.5. So it is complicated, but that’s not my problem; I’m just the rider!”

Luca Marini, Sepang MotoGP test, 10 February
Luca Marini, Sepang MotoGP test, 10 February

Marini: ‘Every rider was against this rule’

VR46 Ducati’s Luca Marini, who set the fastest lap of the test, said that ‘every’ rider had been against the rule when it was discussed in the Safety Commission.

“We still don’t know the ‘lines’ of the regulation. It is still not clear. Sincerely, we spoke a lot in the Safety Commission last year and every rider was against this rule because it is a matter of safety that when the front pressure goes above 2.2 it is really easy to crash,” said the Italian.

“When you make a race it is impossible to predict the pressure to start because you also want to stay a little inside the limit, which in my opinion is a little too high. 1.88 is I think average [last year].

“If you stay alone with this average then perfect but if you have two riders in front of you then your pressure will be 2.3 and you risk a crash.

“I want to speak with all the other riders, the manufacturers, Dorna and Michelin to try and understand this new rule. In the first three races we will have the opportunity to try it and for sure we will try to stay in the correct amount of pressure but it is not easy, and it depends a lot if you start on the front row or not.”

Marco Bezzecchi, Sepang MotoGP test, 10 February
Marco Bezzecchi, Sepang MotoGP test, 10 February

Bezzecchi: ‘I hope we can find an agreement’

“For me it is very, very dangerous to go with the tyre pressure very high,” said Marini’s team-mate Marco Bezzecchi. “You just need 0.02 [bar] and you start and be in trouble with the tyre.

“It will be crucial to understand this. I hope that the rule is not going to be official because I think it’s [about] the safety of Michelin [not having tyres used at low pressure], but also the safety for us.

“I think it’s possible to find a balance between what Michelin and the riders prefer. It will be interesting to see how the first races will go, then they will have a meeting and make a decision.

“If the rule is made we have to respect it, but honestly I hope we can find an agreement.”

The fourth round of the season will be the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.

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