Aleix Espargaro has been hit with a six-place grid penalty and a €10,000 fine as punishment for physically striking Franco Morbidelli during an altercation on track during FP2 for the Qatar MotoGP.
The Spaniard, a race winner in Catalunya this season, was remonstrating with Morbidelli after being baulked on a fast lap during the session immediately preceding qualifying when he reached out and slapped him on the helmet.
Though neither were at racing speed, the incident has drawn ire from the paddock, not least the stewards who have subsequently handed down a stiff penalty of six grid positions and a large fine.
Going on to qualify in tenth position, it means Espargaro starts 16th, with Brad Binder, Augusto Fernandez, Marco Bezzecchi, Fabio Quartararo, Enea Bastianini and Jack Miller ascending a spot from their qualifying positions.
The penalty applies only to Sunday main Qatar MotoGP with Espargaro permitted to start tenth for the Sprint Race.
The incident has drawn comparison with that of Romano Fenati, who was banned from the grand prix paddock for the remainder of the season after squeezing the brake lever of Stefano Manzi’s bike at racing speed in reaction to being forced wide by the Italian during the 2017 San Marino Moto2 race in 2018.