Tyre pressures: Jorge Martin must now win races by at least 3-seconds?

MotoGP title contender Jorge Martin’s official warning at Buriram means that any future race victories by less than 3-seconds will effectively remain provisional until his tyre pressure readings have been confirmed.
Jorge Martin, Pramac Ducati MotoGP Buriram 2023
Jorge Martin, Pramac Ducati MotoGP Buriram 2023

That’s because, while the first low-pressure punishment is simply a warning, if the Pramac Ducati rider again fails to meet the minimum pressures for 30% of a Sprint or 50% of a Grand Prix distance, he will receive a 3-second post-race penalty.

The nightmare scenario, for Martin and MotoGP as a sport, would therefore be if the Spaniard wins the world championship on track at the Valencia finale, only to be stripped of his finishing position - and with it the title - due to a post-race tyre pressure penalty.

As his good friend Aleix Espargaro found out at Buriram, the risk of receiving a time penalty is real:

Aleix Espargaro tyre pressure penalty
Aleix Espargaro tyre pressure penalty

The Aprilia rider became the first to commit a second low-pressure offence since penalties were introduced at Catalunya, dropping him from fifth to eighth place in Thailand due to the +3 seconds added to his finishing time.

A third breach sees the penalty rise to +6 seconds, then +12 seconds for a fourth offence.

As such, Pramac are sure to run a conservatively high starting pressures for Martin in the six remaining races, although this will increase the risk of a loss of grip if his front tyre then overheats in traffic.

But with tyre pressure tricky to predict - varying massively depending on if a rider is leading or following - the best way for Martin to be sure of keeping future race wins (or any other results) will be to keep a margin of at least 3 seconds over the rider behind.

The trouble is, with MotoGP so close, Martin's victory margins so far this season have been only: 1.840s (Le Mans Sprint), 2.468s (Sachsening Sprint), 0.064s (Sachsenring GP), 1.445s (Misano Sprint), 1.350s (Misano GP), 1.389s (Buddh Sprint), 1.390s (Motegi Sprint), 1.413s (Motegi GP), 1.131s (Mandalika Sprint), 0.933s (Buriram Sprint) and 0.253s (Buriram GP).

One thing Martin definitely can't afford to do is back off on the final lap and win by 2.9s. Instead, if he has any chance of pulling 3s clear of his nearest rival by the finish, Martin must now push to the flag to try and do it, in order to neutralise the potential penalty risk.

Jorge Martin tyre pressure warning
Jorge Martin tyre pressure warning

By contrast, since reigning world champion and title leader Francesco Bagnaia is yet to receive a pressure warning, he can afford to risk a starting pressure that is predicted to be closer to the limit, in the knowledge that his results are not currently in jeopardy.

If Bagnaia continues to avoid a first tyre pressure offence, he could even theoretically run well below the limit throughout the (Sunday) Valencia GP season finale, and only receive a post-race warning.

Bagnaia starts the final three rounds (six races) in Sepang this weekend with a slim 13-point advantage over Martin.

Similarly, assuming Alvaro Bautista’s Sepang wild-card is only a one-off and he completes the Saturday Sprint above the minimum, the reigning WorldSBK champion could then afford to run low in Sunday’s race and accept a warning.

Of course, riders already run the risk of post-race penalties for things like exceeding track limits on the last lap, as Brad Binder found to his cost at Assen and Buriram.

But while staying off the green (or surrendering time after running wide) is in the hands of the riders, meeting minimum tyre pressures is not.

The minimum pressures specified by Michelin, for safety reasons, are roughly 1.9 bar for the front and 1.7 for the rear. The exact values 'may change from some circuits to others'.

While Espargaro now runs the risk of a 6-second sanction, the other full-time riders to have received - like Martin - an official warning for low pressure (and will be penalised 3 seconds if they offend again) are: Maverick Vinales, Franco Morbidelli, Raul Fernandez, Marco Bezzecchi, Pol Espargaro and Marc Marquez.

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