Oliveira’s appeal dismissed, penalty confirmed (for 2024)

The injured Miguel Oliveira will go into the off-season knowing he has to serve a Long Lap penalty upon his return to MotoGP action in 2024.
Miguel Oliveira, MotoGP race, Malaysia MotoGP, 12 November
Miguel Oliveira, MotoGP race, Malaysia MotoGP, 12 November

The sanction was handed out for triggering an opening lap Sprint accident in Qatar last Saturday, which left Oliveira on the ground and also took down Aleix Espargaro and Enea Bastianini.

Espargaro suffered a fracture to his lower leg - and later retired from the Sunday race - but Oliveira came off worst in the form of a broken right shoulder that will rule him out of this weekend’s Valencia finale and post-race test.

Oliveira’s RNF team then appealed the penalty decision to the FIM Appeal Stewards, Stuart Higgs and Amit Arora.

At the hearing, the MotoGP Stewards “explained the basis of their decision was following an analysis of the incident at Turn 6 on Lap 1 of the Sprint, utilising video footage comprising of multiple angles and an interview with Mr. Oliveira and applying penalties consistent with equivalent incidents throughout the season.”

Oliveira and team manager Wilco Zeelenberg then “explained the incident from their perspective”. Team Data engineers also “joined the hearing to provide a comparison of the telemetry between #88 and #41 immediately preceding the point of collision.”

That was to presumably show the difference in braking between Oliveira and Espargaro, with Bastianini having previously described the accident as occurring because “Oliveira braked quite hard and those in front a bit too early so he couldn't avoid contact with Aleix.”

Following the evidence given, the Appeal Stewards, “considered to whom the balance of responsibility for the incident rested on, by virtue of track position and the circumstances of the point of the race (1st lap, 6th corner).

“The data comparison between #88 and #41 did not reveal an exaggerated deceleration of #41 immediately preceding the point of collision.

“The Appeal Stewards have not been presented with sufficient evidence to reach an alternative conclusion and to deviate from the decision as specified by the MotoGP Stewards Panel. The Appeal Stewards confirm the decision.”

Ironically, the penalty wording was changed from ‘next race’ (which meant a penalty would lapse if a guilty rider skipped the next race due to injury) to ‘the next grand prix race in which the rider participates’ after uproar over Marc Marquez's penalty for colliding with Oliveira in the Portimao season opener.

Had the wording not been changed, Oliveira’s Qatar penalty would have been erased due to his absence from this weekend’s Valencia finale. Instead, it will now carry over to his first grand prix race of 2024, back in Qatar on March 10.

The only way for Oliveira to avoid starting next season with a penalty hanging over him would have been to make a token entry at Valencia this weekend and serve it in the Sunday race. But that would require passing the pre-race medical (Bastianini was out for two months with a similar injury) and lapping within 105% of the fastest rider in practice, to be eligible for qualifying.

RNF has already announced that Aprilia test rider Lorenzo Savadori will take over Oliveira’s RS-GP for Valencia.

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