Aleix Espargaro questions penalties after feisty exchange with Franco Morbidelli

Aleix Espargaro was on the receiving end of some close moves in Sunday’s French MotoGP race.

Aleix Espargaro, 2024 French MotoGP
Aleix Espargaro, 2024 French MotoGP

An eventful pair of races at Le Mans saw Aleix Espargaro serve a double long lap penalty for jumping the start in the Sprint, salvaging fifth, before a pair of incidents cost him dearly in the grand prix.

The first was a close pass by Enea Bastianini, which forced Espargaro to straight-line the Turn 9 chicane and also allowed Fabio Quartararo to overtake, leaving him in eighth.

But Bastianini had cut the corner and was given a Long Lap penalty for failing to back off by at least one second (but not for the actual pass on Espargaro). 

Bastianini's penalty put Espargaro into seventh, where he remained after Quartararo fell and Bastianini re-passed. However, he lost two more places on the final lap during a pass by Morbidelli, leaving him ninth.

“It was a pity about Aleix because he started strong but then found himself in a few battles that caused him to lose rhythm,” said Aprilia CEO Massimo Rivola.

“First an aggressive move by Bastianini and then, at the end of the race, Morbidelli also cost him two positions. 

"It’s difficult to find your pace when these types of episodes occur.”

Afterwards, Espargaro questioned why penalties don’t seem to be applied if a rider is forced to take evasive action to avoid an accident.

“With Enea, I had to pick up the bike, it was very quick. But Franco also, if I didn’t pick up the bike, I would crash,” Espargaro said.

“So the feeling is that they just put a penalty if you crash.

“But what you have to judge and penalise is the action, not the outcome. If I held the line, we both would have had a big [accident].

“So I didn’t really understand, but it’s OK.”

The lap times suggest Espargaro, who was holding third place in the early stages, lost around 3 seconds during the incidents.

If that is subtracted from his +11.3s finishing time, he would have been around sixth place, directly behind team-mate Maverick Vinales.

“I expected to be faster, sincerely, but I didn’t have grip really,” he said. “I expected with this low temperature to have better traction, but [on Saturday] I felt a lot stronger.”

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