Riders have once again called on Dorna and the FIM to tighten up its procedures for the way it decides on penalties for irresponsible riding following a bruising start to the 2023 MotoGP World Championship season at Portimao.
The first MotoGP curtain raiser to take place on European soil since 2006, the Portuguese MotoGP also heralded the first-ever Saturday Sprint Race to prelude Sunday’s main full length GP.
With some riders airing concerns that the short length and a format awarding points to the top nine only would lead to aggressive riding, the inaugural Sprint Race was indeed a physical affair with five riders crashing out within the first three laps.
Among these was Enea Bastianini, who misses this weekend’s Argentinian MotoGP after suffering a broken shoulder blade in a collision with Luca Marini, while Joan Mir was punished for crashing while attempting to muscle his way through on Fabio Quartararo.
More controversy followed in the main GP when Marc Marquez got his braking wrong into Turn 3 on lap three, the Repsol Honda rider striking Jorge Martin’s Pramac Ducati before slamming into Miguel Oliveira with substantial force to put them out of the race.
While Oliveira escaped serious injury, Marquez - who will not race this weekend following surgery on his broken hand - copped a double long-lap penalty that he must serve upon returning to action.
For many though, the long lap penalty wasn’t a harsh enough penalty for Marquez, with a handful of riders - led by Aleix Espargaro - remarking the eight-time GP World Champion should have been banned for one race.
Ahead of this weekend’s second round at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, it is a view Pecco Bagnaia appears to concur with.
“I think we have to ask for a clearer idea of the penalties and safety, because at the moment it is difficult to understand what they are doing with the sanction to Marc - it is hard to understand how a rider can make a mistake like this. We need to ask for a clearer idea, just that.”
Though the debate over consistency rulings has remained prevalent in MotoGP for some years, there is nonetheless some sympathy towards the stewards from Aprilia Racing’s Maverick Vinales and VR46 Racing Ducati’s Marco Bezzecchi
“We must believe the choices and penalties are correct because I imagine it is very complicated, you can see things in different ways, but we must follow one rule,” Vinales said.
“Maybe with a better understanding we can improve but right now the stewards have a big job and it is complicated.”
“It is very, very difficult,” Bezzecchi added. “Within battles where there are contacts because [bad] situations happen.
“It would be nice to have clear ideas but I also understand what the stewards are doing is difficult. We have the Safety Commission to speak together and come to a conclusion, to make everything clearer, this is the target.”
Never one to shy away from giving a ‘blunter’ appraisal, Miller agrees consistency is the ultimate target, but was unconvinced by riders blaming the race format for the ensuing incidents that occurred.
“Last weekend was normal, the Sprint Race was good - that is going to happen when it’s four months off the bike, everyone is trying to prove themselves, so tempers will flare and guys will be pushing the maximum, that is what the sport is.
“Unfortunately, accidents happen and when there is an incident and you’re at fault, to have a consequence, it has to be there.
“The one thing we asked for last year was consistency and when you look at crashes last year, like Taka’s at Barcelona and Alex’s with me [Phillip Island], there were some big hits last year.
He also came to the defence of an embattled Marquez, praising him for owning up to his mistake and accepting his punishment.
“Because it is Marc Marquez, everyone wants to put the knife in… I’m not sticking up for him, he made a mistake, he knows what he did, but there is too much talk about it.
“It’s racing, that’s what we are here to do, of course there is a line, but the important thing is where you draw the line.”