MotoGP riders wary of Sachsenring grid penalties after FP2 incident

Five riders took a trip to MotoGP Race Direction and the FIM Stewards following a German MotoGP FP2 incident which provoked a blocking debate between riders
MotoGP riders wary of Sachsenring grid penalties after FP2 incident

MotoGP riders have been reminded to be aware of not blocking other riders at Sachsenring after an incident at the end of FP2, with stronger penalties due to be introduced for the closing stages of Saturday's FP3.

Danilo Petrucci, Valentino Rossi, Johann Zarco, Pol Espargaro and Franco Morbidelli were all requested to visit MotoGP race direction and Freddie Spencer, chairman of the FIM MotoGP Stewards panel, at the end of FP2 after being involved in blocking rivals who were on a fast lap, including Jack Miller and Maverick Vinales, during late soft-tyre runs in the final minutes of the Friday afternoon session.

None of the riders picked up any warnings or penalties, but stiffer punishments requested last time out at Assen now mean any rider who blocks a rival on a fast lap during the final stages of FP3 will be treated as if the block occurred during qualifying.

With the combined practice times at the end of FP3 deciding which riders automatically gain Q2 entry, the end of FP3 effectively becomes a pre-qualifying event.

But given the tight and twisty nature of the German MotoGP circuit, particularly around the first sector, Petrucci has warned it could be a problem for riders after he was caught up in the incident at the end of FP2.

“Many riders were going out of the pits and others were waiting for a tow. But the problem is at corners 1, 2 and 3 it is impossible to give space to other riders,” Petrucci explained. “I saw Miller coming and I was going on the right side, so Jack went through, but then he found the two KTM riders.

“Then there were already three riders in the middle and Maverick [Vinales] was coming, so he found me in the middle of the line. The problem is that we don’t have space in corner 1, 2 and 3 to let other riders go through.

“In Assen in the safety commission we decided to have the last 15 minutes of FP3 with the same rules as Q1 and Q2. If you make problems for other riders you will be penalised. This is a rule we established in Assen to try to avoid this kind of thing but in MotoGP here at the first four corners it is very tight which are all in the opposite direction so if you are wide in one corner then you are on the inside at the next corner. It is very difficult to find a space.”

While Vinales, who finished FP2 in fourth place, doesn’t expect any MotoGP riders to pick up penalties in second practice, he does anticipate a tricky end to FP3 for the same reason with the new penalty procedure in place.

“I think is just a warning, I don’t think they will penalise anyone, because it’s only Friday and it doesn’t matter,” Vinales said. “It’s important in FP3 to not do any crazy things, to go in the middle without looking back, and all this kind of thing.

“FP3 right now is one of the most important practices for us.”

Espargaro believes the issue will be exaggerated at Sachsenring due to narrow width of the circuit but at wider tracks it will pose less of a problem.

“This track is so narrow in the first sector and some riders were coming but we cannot disappear: MotoGP is not Moto3,” the Red Bull KTM rider said. “They are quite big.

“I don’t know what they are going to say but we cannot disappear when the top guys are coming behind us.”