Johann Zarco may have still celebrated his first MotoGP podium for Ducati, and the first ever for the Avintia team, but Ducati Sporting director Paolo Ciabatti believes the Frenchman's long lap penalty was 'totally wrong'.

Zarco was issued with the punishment by the FIM Stewards for a clash that sent Pol Espargaro out of the race at Turn 1, on lap 10 of 21.

The pair crossed paths when Zarco dived alongside and Espargaro then turned in, the resulting contact sending the KTM rider sliding out of fourth place.

While some, presumably including the FIM Stewards, felt Zarco should have made sure he was further in front so that he could be seen by Espargaro, others such as Ciabatti and former world champion Casey Stoner believe Espargaro was in the wrong for running slightly wide and not checking before turning back in.

"It was a totally wrong decision by Race Direction in our opinion," Ciabatti said. "Pol Espargaro made a mistake. It was the first corner after the riders cross the start-finish line, and the riders see the pit board. So he knew that Zarco was zero seconds behind him. And he made a mistake. He eventually went wide. And Zarco just went inside, his normal line.

"When a rider goes wide and has to come back to the normal line, he should look, because he's not alone on track, and he saw the pit board for sure. So we cannot understand what was a mistake from Zarco. He was on his line, he was inside, and he could not brake because he was leaning a lot, and Espargaro came back from being wide and went into him.

"So to us, the mistake is from Espargaro, and he should have been penalised, not Zarco who was doing a fantastic race, and would have finished in second position."

Fortunately for Zarco, but the time the long lap penalty was issued he had just enough advantage to remain in third position, enough if his chances of passing Franco Morbidelli for second were now gone.

"An incredible achievement for Johann on his third race on a Ducati and for a private team like Avintia," Ciabatti said. "It would have been very important to be second. Finally, and luckily, he managed to save a third position from Rins, which is fully deserved. But the correct result should have been a second position, so we're very upset."

More upset than Ciabatti was Espargaro.

The Spaniard felt he had the pace to match team-mate Brad Binder, who went on to claim a historic first MotoGP victory for KTM.

"The crash was as you all saw. I was just leaning. He could avoid contact. He didn’t want to. He gave throttle, and he took me away from the line," Espargaro said of the Zarco incident.

"He just did a long lap penalty, which in this track is a joke, and he still got the podium. I’m 'hot' now, so it’s better not to talk so much about it.

"I’m really frustrated because I don’t know if this [a race-winning chance] is going to be repeated in the next races. These kinds of things happen maybe just once per year. I had it and I couldn’t, or they took me out.

"So hopefully we have no big problems in Austria and we can fight for the win there as well. But I feel like I have lost a big opportunity, or they took me out of a big opportunity. Just unfair."

 

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