Watch: Aleix Espargaro fined 10,000 Euros, 6 place penalty for Morbidelli slap

An on-track tangle between Aleix Espargaro and Franco Morbidelli quickly escalated during Saturday practice at the Qatar MotoGP.
Aleix Espargaro, MotoGP, Qatar MotoGP, 17 November
Aleix Espargaro, MotoGP, Qatar MotoGP, 17 November

Just as in the incident between Aleix’s brother Pol and Marco Bezzecchi on Friday, the pair found themselves aiming for the same piece of asphalt, but this time with clear contact between the factory Aprilia and Yamaha riders.

Replays showed Morbidelli put a close pass on Espargaro, who then launched his Aprilia up the inside of Morbidelli at the next corner, causing the pair to bang fairings and run wide.

Espargaro was clearly furious (suggesting something may have happened off camera before the passes) but when Morbidelli then pulled alongside and made a ‘calm down’ gesture, the Spaniard responded by slapping the Italian’s helmet with his left hand.

Unlike yesterday’s moves between Pol and Bezzecchi, which ended with the Italian bumping the GASGAS rider’s rear wheel six times in the practice start zone, the Aleix-Morbidelli incident was immediately put under investigation by the FIM Stewards.

The Stewards' verdict, delivered after qualifying, was to fine Aleix Espargaro 10,000 euros as well as a six-place grid penalty for Sunday's grand prix.

That means Espargaro will now start from 16th place (but will keep 10th on the grid for this evening's Sprint race).

A statement from the Stewards explaining Aleix Espargaro's punishment read:

'On 18" November 2023 at 15;07:19 during QATAR AIRWAYS GRAND PRIX OF QATAR Free Practice 2 session you were observed to have behaved in an aggressive manner including physically striking number 21.

'This contravenes Article of the FIM Grand Prix World Championship Regulations "any corrupt or fraudulent act, or any action of prejudicial to the interests of the meetings or of the sport, carried out by a person or a group of persons occurring during an event".

"It is therefore an infringement of the FIM Grand Prix World Championship Regulations, being detrimental to the interest of the sport.

'For the above reasons, the FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel has imposed a fine of 10,000 Euros and 6 Grid Positions penalty for the MotoGP QATAR AIRWAYS GRAND PRIX OF QATAR MotoGP Race.'

Espargaro isn't the only rider to receive a Lusail grid penalty, with LCR stand-in Iker Lecuona dropping three positions for riding slowly on the racing line and obstructing Enea Bastianini.

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