MotoGP riders to get new ‘red flag button’ in future?

MotoGP bikes could be fitted with a special ‘red flag’ button in future, to be pressed if a rider believes track conditions have become too dangerous.
Ducati handlebar, French MotoGP, 16 May
Ducati handlebar, French MotoGP, 16 May

The feedback would be sent directly to Race Direction and, if an overwhelming majority of riders were in agreement, red flags could then be shown.

While the MotoGP class has flag-to-flag rules - meaning dry races are not stopped due to the arrival of rain, with bike swaps allowed instead - there are still circumstances where practice, qualifying and races need to be red-flagged due to extreme conditions.

The last two rounds have seen the Buriram Moto2 race stopped and MotoGP race delayed due to torrential rain and standing water. When the MotoGP race did begin, some riders described having almost zero visibility in the early laps.

High winds then caused difficulties during Friday practice in Australia, including red flags for the Moto2 class after a series of accidents.

The aim of a ‘red flag’ button would be to inform Race Direction of the dangers on track before the visible proof of an accident occurs.

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“It's on the limit riding in this situation,” VR46s Luca Marini said of the Friday wind in Australia. “But every time we wait for a crash to have a red flag.

“It's difficult to take this decision. I think IRTA, Dorna, or Race Direction, when they need to take this kind of decision, it's not an easy job for them. Because they are not on track, they are here [in the pits] and from here you don't feel the wind.”

For that reason, riders have discussed having the 'red flag' button.

“We are asking them, also in the Safety Commission, to have a button to push and maybe if 80% of the grid pushes this button, also in a race for example, they can have a red flag.

“It’s just to send more information. Because if you look at the race from the TV, you don't see anything.”

At present, the only way riders can indicate their concerns to Race Direction once a race has started is by raising their hand.

The problem is that a rider in the lead, for example, has a vested interest in stopping a race early, while those gaining ground as conditions deteriorate would want it to continue.

Luca Marini, MotoGP, Australian MotoGP, 15 October
Luca Marini, MotoGP, Australian MotoGP, 15 October

As such, there is never going to be complete agreement, but giving riders a direct say and setting a high threshold would negate much of the criticism.

“I think now the technology is much better [to do this], and when you lift your hand, you might just see the three or four guys in the front [do it],” Marini said. “They can have in their mind an advantage by lifting their hand in that moment.

“But when 80% of the riders, even the last one, or the 16th place, pushes a button and sends a signal that it is a dangerous situation - it's like a vote. I think it will be easier for [Race Direction] if we can send them this information.

“It’s like in F1, but they can speak [on the radio]. It's too difficult for us to speak but pushing a button we can do easily because we are pushing something [on the handlebars] all around the lap!

“So one more [button] is not a problem. We are open to other ideas as well, but this was the easiest one.”

The button could also be used to help Race Direction quickly gauge how many riders feel a race start should be delayed, after experiencing track conditions on their sighting lap(s) to the grid.

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