Reigning MotoGP Champion Fabio Quartararo heads into the British Grand Prix with a long lap penalty looming.
The Monster Energy Yamaha rider was issued the sanction after his Assen crash involving Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro but with similar, and at times more extreme, incidents receiving different or even zero attention from the FIM Stewards this season, the paddock remains both confused and critical of the intervention.
"Five weeks was pretty long but I feel happy to be back, I will approach this weekend like a normal weekend, it’s how we need to do it,” Quartararo said from Silverstone ahead of the first race back after the summer break. “And then we have that penalty but let’s see how the weekend is going and of course how we approach the race. It will be a great challenge for us and I feel ready to race.”
“I don't even start FP1 so I don't know what to expect but of course is going to be different kind of race and a different challenge but like I said, I feel ready, I feel motivated. I would make Friday and Saturday like normal weekend and also Sunday - normal race just different strategy because we have the long lap penalty.
“Of course it's important but it's not the last race of the season, is not the last battle that we will have this year,” he continued. “Of course it's going to be an important race for me but I don't need to get crazy about 'I need to make the long lap as fast as possible'. I need to win, yes 100 per cent this race. I will work my best during Friday and Saturday to make the best pace as possible, best qualifying and then we will see how is our position on the race. But I think the first part of the holidays, I was obsessed with doing that long lap fast or whatever. But the more you can do is have a crash or lose one-tenth so I prefer to lose one or two-tenth in the long lap penalty and not put the bike on the ground.”
Quartararo was vocal about his disappointment with the penalty when it was first handed down, a fact he stands by after time away to think.
"No not at all,” he answered firmly when asked if his opinion had changed. “I don't want to say something about the previous crash, because was no penalty. Of course after the crash of Barcelona that was massive, I understand they want to change a little bit the rules, that they need to be more aggressive but I think we need to find a balance between irresponsible riding and racing incident. I mean, of course I know that I crash, Aleix would make a better result, but I don't see that like a penalty. Just they need to find the balance between no penalty and penalty. This is for me the main thing to don't make our sport boring.”
The paddock, it seems, is in agreement with the Frenchman.
“I fully agree with Fabio in the sense of that he's not happy and he cannot understand the penalty,” Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro confirmed, despite being the rider impacted by the move during the Dutch TT. “I fully agree with him because we've seen different examples during this year that they've been more aggressive than him and had no penalty. So if you give a penalty on that cases and then you give a penalty to Fabio, I think Fabio will understand and carry on.
"All the riders on the Safety Commission we are pushing for the same, we try to understand where is the limit? Try to make it equal for everybody, because if one day you penalise, the other day you don't penalise, then it's difficult for us to understand.
“I think that we will keep riding aggressively. We keep doing our races. Fabio when he was saying 'I will not overtake anymore' is not true. He will overtake a lot! But yes, what we ask to the Stewards is that you need to penalise the same. That action with Jack [Miller] in Portimao or Taka [Nakagami] in Barcelona or this one, were not that different and all were different penalty or no penalties.”
“There are two types of crashes,” Suzuki’s Alex Rins added. “One is this one, that more or less you start to overtake and you lose the front, and the other type is, for example, the one in Montmelo. The question is why in Montmelo they didn't penalise him. So I don't know what needs to change to do it well. The one from Fabio I'm not fully agree with the penalty but they need to start with something.”
"For us, it's difficult to understand this type of penalty because in Qatar I did more or less the same of Jack, that was very similar to the one of Fabio and it didn't get a penalty,” Ducati’s Pecco Bagnaia admitted. “In Barcelona we have seen a big, big crash and was really irresponsible riding and Taka didn't get a penalty. So for us, it's very difficult to understand. I'm not agreeing with the penalty for Fabio. For us, this race can be, we have to take an advantage on that situation, for sure. Because he has to do the long lap penalty, so we have to be competitive to try to recover more points, this is clear but I'm not agree with the penalty.”