Harsh Criticism After Malaysia! Espargaro Warns: "This will ruin the championship!"
Published: 12th November 2023
After the Malaysian Grand Prix, MotoGP riders go all out on a new rule. Aleix Espargaro is sure it “will ruin the championship”.
While the MotoGP riders engaged in intense competition during Saturday’s sprint, the premier class witnessed one of its most uneventful races in history at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Overtaking opportunities were scarce, and the procession was marked by several crashes. The riders attribute this to a specific culprit.
Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro expresses frustration, stating, “We do this every single weekend. We talk to Michelin, to Piero [Taramasso], to Carlos Ezpeleta, and also to Carmelo [Ezpeleta]. In every single meeting, we discuss it, but there is no chance to change it.”
The culprit in question is MotoGP’s new minimum tire pressure regulations, in effect since Silverstone, which incurs penalties for falling below the tire pressure values specified by Michelin.
In the Sepang heat, five riders – Francesco Bagnaia, Luca Marini, Alvaro Bautista, Raul Fernandez, and Iker Lecuona – received warnings. A penalty is imposed after the second offense.
Espargaro, the sole rider penalized in Thailand two weeks ago, approached his tire pressure in Malaysia cautiously, saying, “Yes, for sure, if I don’t want to have a six-second penalty and the next time twelve.”
Espargaro’s caution proved crucial as he later crashed in the race after losing the front heading into Sepang’s Turn 9.
The dilemma persists: starting with normal pressure causes the front wheel temperatures to rise too high, resulting in crashes. In the Malaysia GP, six such incidents occurred. Opting for lower pressure than advised at the start risks staying below the minimum value and facing penalties.
Espargaro unequivocally states, “I really hate this rule; it ruins this championship. It makes life very difficult for me and my engineers.”
Compounding the frustration is the diminished quality of racing. Thanks to more and more aero on the MotoGP bikes, following another rider closely on track leads to increased tire pressures, making overtaking near impossible.
Fabio Quartararo in particular frequently grapples with this issue. The Frenchman now accepts potential penalties for tire pressure during the race, stating, “We play a lot with it in the race. We set the tire pressure very low at the beginning. We knew it would be worth it, even if we got a warning.”
The compromise is to accept a few added seconds to the race result in the future rather than risk being unable to overtake or, worse, experiencing a crash. However, this calculation only applies until 2023.
From the beginning of the 2024 season onwards, falling below the limit will lead to disqualification. Quartararo expresses frustration, saying, “I think that’s pretty dumb. It’s already hard enough for us to overtake.”
“Why should this lead to disqualification when it’s not even about safety? I don’t understand why they introduced this limit.”
Although the safety argument prompted the new rule, none of the riders can really comprehend the reasoning behind the decision.
Aleix Espargaro criticizes Michelin, stating, “I’ve been racing in this championship for more than 15 years, and I’ve never seen such problems with the front tires.”
“He [Michelin Motorsport Director Piero Taramasso] says we are close to exploding front tires? Okay, he knows a million times better than I do. But I have only seen exploding rear tires in my career, never at the front.”
Quartararo goes further, asserting a deterioration in safety: “We need a serious conversation about this because high pressures are dangerous too. You don’t really ride your bike anymore; it’s a completely different feeling.”
“In the end, the two tires hold the bike. If the tires don’t work, then it’s terrible and changes everything completely.”
However, Espargaro is more measured, stating, “It leads to a lack of performance, but it’s not dangerous.”