Johann Zarco lands belated punishment over Austrian MotoGP crash

Johann Zarco will start his next MotoGP race from the pit-lane as punishment after stewards belatedly held him responsible for the Austrian MotoGP crash

Johann Zarco - Avintia Ducati

Johann Zarco has been formally penalised by the FIM Stewards five days after being involved in a collision with Franco Morbidelli during the Austrian MotoGP, following a review into the frightening incident.

The governing body had originally opted against immediate action following Sunday’s race, but instead called a hearing on Thursday [20 August] with both riders separately giving their evidence and data from their respective teams was analysed.

The FIM ha now confirmed it finds Zarco to blame for the collision and has been handed a pit-lane start for his next MotoGP race as punishment by FIM Stewards Bill Cumbow, Freddie Spencer and Ralph Bohnhorst.

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As it stands, it isn’t confirmed whether Zarco will be able to compete in Austria after undergoing wrist surgery during the week as a result of the violent accident. If not, he will need to take the penalty in three weeks’ time in Misano instead. 

Though not the strictest penalty stewards can hand down, the decision to place blame with Zarco will prompt a modicum of controversy, not least because it has come days after the incident occurred seemingly amid pressure from other teams and riders.

Why has Johann Zarco been found at fault for the crash?

To provide some pre-crash background, Zarco on the Avintia Ducati had just moved past Morbidelli on the long run from Turn 1 to the Turn 2 left-hand kink, but in defence of the newfound position he moved towards the right and off-line across the bow of the Yamaha.

Though he braked later than the previous lap, he caught Morbidelli unawares, the Italian striking the back of the Ducati with force, sending both down heavily and – more worryingly – catapulting both Ducati and Yamaha bikes towards Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales, just missing them, 

As such, the stewards have based their ruling not on the outcome of the crash, but whether it could have been avoided. In short, Zarco was judged on whether he had given Morbidelli enough space to brake unimpeded, which in this case they ruled he hadn’t.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting on Thursday, Zarco didn’t expect a penalty to be coming his way.

"I explained everything [to the Stewards] and we even had good proof with the data," Zarco said on Thursday evening. "From my opinion, there should not be any penalties because I didn't do anything crazy. but let's see what the decision is…"