Yellow flag rule clampdown to deny thrilling ends to qualifying?

Riders give a lukewarm reception to being told their fastest laps will be cancelled if they have been achieved when passing through a yellow flag zone

MotoGP start field

Changes to the way yellow flags rules are enforced could see riders lose their lap times altogether if they are judged to have not slowed down sufficiently when coming through a hazard zone.

Riders have been warned by Race Direction that if they post personal best sector times while passing through a yellow flag zone the entire lap will be cancelled.

The clarification has come as a result of Jack Miller and Alex Rins’ near-miss during qualifying for the Spanish MotoGP. Miller first crashed at Turn 11, before Rins moments later got it wrong into the fast right-hander and was forced across the gravel.

The Spaniard later admitting to correcting his course so as to safely avoid Miller’s stricken Ducati but the resultant high-speed crash left him with a dislocated and fractured shoulder.

Critically though this crash happened towards the end of the lap in the final minutes of Q2, meaning were this to occur again this weekend, any rider who improves in that sector loses that time. For instance, Fabio Quartararo would likely have been denied pole position last weekend because he made a marginal gain in the final sector, even if he insists he did back off at that corner.

Indeed, given the short turn around in Q2 means riders often only get two or three laps, it could prompt a re-think in strategy that could see riders not leave it until the final moments to post their best times. 

Interestingly, the rule has always been in place but never strictly enforced until now. However, while in four-wheel motorsport the ruling applies to more serious double waved yellows, MotoGP is cracking down by including any yellow flag, however minor the incident.

What do the MotoGP riders think?

The shift hasn’t been roundly welcomed by riders, who while respecting safety standards, believe it isn’t a serious issue.

We’ll see about this new rule, I don’t 100% agree with it,” Miller said while apologising about being the culprit that brought on the change in policy. “I think there should be some common sense involved in these sort of things, to immediately scrap laps we’re on especially with the limited tyre we have, I don’t think it is the right idea especially if you can pass a crash in a safe manner while on a hot lap.

“For example at Turn 2 there were a lot of crashes in qualifying. It is something we will discuss further in the Safety Commission”

Suzuki’s Alex Rins, meanwhile, thinks some riders could exploit a loophole by simply running off track after a strong result if a single yellow is enough to scupper following rivals.

“You need to take care because some riders can do the lap and stop the bike maybe, then no more laps for the others.”