On Saturday at the Austrian Grand Prix, 24 riders from the Moto3 class were penalised for riding 'at an extreme slow speed, not consistent with track conditions' in their first sector after leaving the pits.

The punishment was a follow-up to the 18 riders penalised for the same offence at the Sachsenring, just before the summer break.

The German Grand Prix marked the first time the MotoGP Stewards Panel had directed its attention to the first sector after leaving the pits, following a long battle to eradicate slow-moving riders from sector two onwards.

That offence is normally defined as "riding slowly in more than 3 sectors, in excess of the 110% limit of your fastest sectors".

It took until the punishment was raised to a 12-place grid penalty for the behaviour to be largely stamped out. But Race Director Mike Webb admits the problem of deliberately riding slowly - usually while looking for a tow - simply shifted to pit exit, where the 110% limit doesn't apply.

"I have to say the 12-place grid penalty must be working. We have very, very few of those for slow sectors during practice now. There were none here [in Austria]," Webb said. "But what they have been doing is gaming the system.

"Under my old protocol, the first sector didn't count because it's not fair to have to go flat-out in your first sector. But what happened is: 'Even if it's for no advantage whatsoever, I'm going to go slow just because I can'."

Webb was prepared to tolerate such behaviour until it reached farcical levels at the Sachsenring. 

"The Sachsenring situation was just stupidity; riders at walking pace in the first sector for no reason," he said. "So I determined that - even if it's a first sector - you are getting a penalty for riding ridiculously slowly, not consistent with track conditions and therefore causing a danger."

But when so many riders are guilty, the usual grid penalties have little effect.

"We can't put 24 people at the back of the grid because it's not going to change much. Therefore they got a relatively heavy fine for the first time and I would double it if they did it again.

"I've done that here [in Austria]: The first timers got 500 euros and the second timers got 1,000.

"I haven’t decided if I'll just continue to double the fine if they keep doing it, or if I'll come up with something like a time penalty, championship points, starting from pit lane… Maybe I'll surprise them.

"I'd like the team to feel it as well as the riders and part of the idea of a 1,000 euro fine was that the team will end up paying it. I have to say, the majority response from team managers - who are signing those penalty documents - is 'good on you, you need to do this'.

"We'll find a way. With multiple riders [breaking the rules], it also becomes a case of trying to reward the riders who are behaving well. For now, I've followed what I said I would do at the Sachsenring and maybe I'll dream up something else for the next time.

"We know we have to stop it. It's ridiculous."


Loading Comments...