Keith Huewen: Bagnaia ‘idiot’ for drink driving, but it shouldn’t affect career

Francesco Bagnaia’s Ibiza drink-driving incident, a review of the 2022 rookies and listener questions headline this week’s MotoGP podcast featuring Keith Huewen.
Francesco Bagnaia, German MotoGP, 18 June
Francesco Bagnaia, German MotoGP, 18 June

Bagnaia failed a breathalyser test after the car he was driving left the road near a roundabout in the early hours of the morning on July 5, on the way back from a party in Ibiza to celebrate his Assen win. No one else was involved.

Few other details are known, but local media report that the Ducati star was found to be over three times the legal alcohol limit and is understood to be facing a potential driving ban of 1-4 years.

Ducati is yet to comment, but Bagnaia issued an apology via social media acknowledging he was over the limit and insisting he has learned his lesson: “Never get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol.”

Former British champion and Grand Prix rider Huewen said: “Only one word comes to mind really: idiot! And he will be feeling like an idiot.

“I can make comparisons to back in the day, as I often do, but we live in a different world now and he should never have put himself in that position.

“Most of my mates and I’m ashamed to say, so have I, have been caught drinking and driving - but never actually done [prosecuted] for it - because that was the attitude back then. You got a slap on the wrist, told to leave your car where it was and ‘walk home sonny’.

“Even at race tracks, the amount of stories I've got of famous riders being face down on a Friday night, then qualifying on a Saturday and racing on a Sunday.

“But that was then and this is now. We live in a completely different world and we're more aware of the effects these things can have.

“Drink driving is not OK. In fact, out of all the things that seem to be politically correct in this modern world - and a lot of them I don't like - this is the one where I think it’s right to be draconian over.

“Because it causes so much grief to so many people unnecessarily.

“OK, he ended up with 'two wheels in a ditch'. Nothing got wrecked. Nobody got harmed. But how easily can that be converted into a family being wiped out?

“Personally - and this is going to come as a shock to you two - I am in favour of a zero-drink policy like in the Czech Republic. Because I believe any system that says you can have one drink and drive means as soon as you’ve had one, you think ‘I’m okay, I’ll have another’.”

Returning to Bagnaia, Huewen continued: “There is no real excuse for it, especially with the kind of money he's got, the kind of backup he's got - why do you need to be in a hire car on your own trying to get home when you're basically pissed?

“It's just daft, really. It shouldn't have happened, but I also don't believe that it will ever, ever happen again.

“He should get a massive wrap on his knuckles as far as the legality of it is concerned. But should it affect his sporting life? No, not in my view. There will be a lot of people that disagree with me on that one, but I don't think that that would be of any benefit to anyone whatsoever.

"Professionally, he should not be punished. Personally, he should be punished – and he will be.”

Francesco Bagnaia's leathers
Francesco Bagnaia's leathers

#GoFree to #GoAlcoholFree? MotoGP editor Peter McLaren said: “While it’s clearly Bagnaia’s fault and he’ll have to pay the price for it like anyone else, you do wonder why his friends at the party did not stop him from driving. I’d imagine Valentino Rossi and VR46, as Bagnaia’s management, will be asking the same question. But maybe Bagnaia left the party without anyone else knowing.

“Fortunately, nobody got hurt, and now it’s a case of seeing what the legal outcome will be. I think that’s also what Ducati will be waiting for before they comment publicly on the matter. Bagnaia has the hashtag #GoFree on his leathers so maybe as part of the punishment he can change it to #GoAlcoholFree and become the world’s fastest-moving alcohol awareness campaign...”

Huewen said: “That’s actually one way of turning this into something positive, a campaign amongst youngsters to not drink and drive.

“If I was Ducati, I'd certainly be looking towards trying to turn this into some kind of positive. Because with the corporate world we're living in, there’s going to be a fair bit of pushback on a drink-driving youngster promoting your product.”

Podcast host Harry Benjamin then opens a discussion on the fortunes of the five MotoGP rookies - Marco Bezzecchi, Fabio di Giannantonio, Darryn Binder, Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez - and whether riders need some form of minimum pay, plus viewer questions including the 2023 Gresini Ducati deal for Alex Marquez and whether Honda should pick Takaaki Nakagami or Ai Ogura for LCR.

Download Episode 54 at the following links...

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