The MotoGP championship faces one of the biggest shakeups in recent years in 2023. The biggest change is of course the introduction of sprint races (or "Sprints", as Dorna is trying to insist on calling them). That change, allied with a calendar expanded to 21 rounds, has a lot of knock-on effects in the championship.
All of this is likely to confuse regular fans who have committed the former schedule to memory. And it will confuse new fans, who are still struggling to work out what happens when during a MotoGP weekend.
To help you keep track of the new schedule and the sprint races, here's your handy FAQ for the most important changes to MotoGP for the 2023.
What The Actual Sprint?
What is this "sprint race" you speak of?
Sprint races are a new, shorter race added to the schedule. Only the MotoGP class will have sprint races, Moto2 and Moto3 will have just the one main race on Sunday, as last year. Dorna wants you not to call them "sprint races", but to refer to them as "Sprints". This request is almost certain to fall on deaf ears, especially as the FIM sporting regulations refers to them as "Sprint races".
When does the sprint race happen?
Saturday, 3pm local time. Sprint races will have a big impact on the schedule. I'll explain more later though.
How long is a sprint race?
The rules state it will be "approximately half distance". For the first sprint race at Portimão, the sprint race will be 12 laps. The full race for MotoGP on Sunday will be 25 laps. This is a good indication of race distance at other tracks.
Half distance means half points?
Almost. The top 9 finishers score points, just as for the Superpole race for WorldSBK. Here's the points on offer:
How much fuel will the riders have?
Riders will have 12 liters for a sprint race. This is a bit more than half the 22 liters for a full-distance race.
Will there be special tires for the sprint race?
No. But it is a racing certainty that everyone will race the soft rear at most tracks.
More fuel and soft tires – so it's flat out, right?
Pretty much. Some factories have special smaller fuel tanks, others don't. But teams won't have to worry about fuel, and riders won't have to manage tires, so it will be pretty much flat out from the start.
An extra race flat out. Will the riders get extra engines during the season?
No. The changes to practice mean that the mileage done on a race weekend will be pretty much identical to previous seasons, roughly 1100km per engine. So the engine allocation remains unchanged. For 2023, it's 8 engines per season, but engine #8 can only be used from the 19th race (which is Sepang in 2023).
Even in the unlikely (but possible) case of races being canceled, the riders will have 8 engines. But they will only get their 8th engine at the 19th race. If there are fewer than 19 races, then no 8th engine.
Will the sprint races need a special set up?
The races are long enough that the bike will still need to have the right balance. The electronics will be set up for power rather than fuel management. Suspension will be almost the same as for the full race. Set up will be somewhere between qualifying and the full race, but quite close to the full race.
Is there a separate qualifying session for the sprint race?
No. The grid is set in Q1 and Q2, as in previous years. The grid is the same for both the sprint and the full race.
Are we really going to call it a "full race"?
Terms you are likely to hear include "full race", "feature race", or "grand prix".
Two races from the same grid position makes qualifying even more important, right?
Absolutely. While the nature of full races is unlikely to change, sprint races won't really have enough time to allow the race to develop. Qualifying on the front two rows will be vital. Getting a good start will be even more important.
So Ducati are going to clean up, based on last year's results?
Probably. For now. Until the rest catch up. But you never know. As Nicky Hayden used to say, that's why we line up on Sunday. Or in this case, Saturday.
Will winning a sprint race count as a win?
Dorna has said that they are going to keep separate statistics for sprint races and feature races. Only winning on Sunday will count as a "grand prix victory". While this may be laudable, experience in WorldSBK says this effort will not last. When WorldSBK introduced the Superpole race, they pledged to keep separate statistics as well. This effort did not last the season.
The reason such an attempt will be ditched is simple. Keeping separate statistics will confuse all but the most hardcore of fans, so most people will just keep track of all wins. You might try to keep the numbers straight over your first drink after meeting your MotoGP friends at the bar, but six drinks in and as the debate heats up, nobody is going to distinguish between the two.
The most likely outcome here is that fans remember two numbers: wins, and grand prix victories.
Why have Dorna decided to introduce sprint races?
You'll have to wait for the long version of this reply, but basically, it's to make a race weekend better value for spectators at the track. More excitement on Saturday means more fans are likely to turn up, rather than just show on Sunday. This is good for the circuits (more tickets sold), and for the economy of the local region (more fans staying for longer and spending more money), which in turn is good for Dorna, because tracks will be willing to pay more to host a race.
But it is aimed at existing fans. It doesn't solve the underlying problem of attracting new fans and growing the sport. Only TV can do that.
Sprint races mean a new schedule, right?
Correct. Sprint races mean the schedule will be shaken up significantly. The biggest change is that MotoGP will follow Moto2 for all sessions, rather than preceding it. The other big change is that Moto3 and Moto2 lose warm up on Sunday morning, as this gives way to fan activities. There will be a Rider Fan Parade for the MotoGP riders, and a chance for fans to meet the Moto2 and Moto3 riders. Again, this is all about making it a better experience for fans at the track.
Here's the new schedule:
|10:45-11:30||MotoGP||Practice 1 timed for Qualifying|
|15:00-16:00||MotoGP||Practice 2 timed for Qualifying|
|10:10-10:40||MotoGP||Free Practice not timed for Qualifying|
|10:00||MotoGP||Rider Fan Parade|
Wait, what's "Practice 1 and 2"? Why is there only one "Free Practice"? Where did FP4 go?
Adding the sprint race meant losing a practice session. Which has meant restructuring the weekend.
Friday is now timed practice, and will determine who gets through to Q2. Practice 1 and Practice 2 (that's FP1 and FP2 to you and me) will count as before, with the top 10 riders in the combined times going through to Q2, leaving the rest to slug it out for the last two Q2 slots in Q1.
The session marked "Practice" on Saturday is what used to be FP4. It is an untimed session (technically, a session for which the times don't count toward anything) which the teams can use for bike set up.
The change to practice means qualifying happens earlier for MotoGP. Q1 immediately follows the Practice session, at 10:50am at most tracks. Q2 follows Q1 as before.
The afternoon sees qualifying for Moto3 and Moto2, and then the sprint race at 3pm.
Doesn't having untimed practice in the morning make it pretty meaningless if you want to choose tires?
It does. Which is why practice on Friday has been extended. FP1 is 45 minutes as it was before. But FP2 is now 1 hour, giving teams more time to work on testing tire wear in the conditions which are likely to be similar to those during both the sprint and the feature race.
Saturday morning practice will still be useful, though more for working on set up.
Does this make life more complicated for the teams?
It absolutely does. They have less time to work on set up, and to figure out which tire will work best. Some of that work will be done in the race on Sunday, where tire wear will be very evident.
It is also questionable just how much difference having 60 minutes of practice on Friday afternoon will make. With points only for the first 9 places in the sprint race, it is imperative to be in Q2. That makes it worth a rider's while to throw tires at FP2 in pursuit of a quick time. A significant portion of the extra 15 minutes of practice are likely to be spent pushing for fast laps, rather than working on setup.
So teams and riders will be going into the races blind?
To an extent, yes. Having a working base set up will be absolutely key here. Having something which is 95% of the way there at every track is far more valuable than having a set up which is 99% at half the circuits and 75% at the other half.
This applies especially to the sprint races. But the sprint races will provide very useful data for setting the bikes up for the Sunday race.
Won't this be tough for the riders, going into races not knowing if their set up will work?
Yes it will. And while officially, Dorna will point out that the rules are the same for all the riders and teams, and everybody is in the same boat, unofficially they will be happy. The less time teams have to set up their bikes, the more chance of teams getting it wrong, or getting it right. That should throw up a few surprises during the season. At least, in theory.
Anything else we need to know about?
Yes, tire pressures.
Why should I care about tire pressures? Isn't that something for the crew chiefs and tire specialists to figure out?
Yes, but the minimum tire pressures are going to be enforced this year, and punishments handed out.
Wait, they weren't in previous years?
No. Tire pressures were monitored and logged, but there were no consequences if teams didn't stick to the minimum tire pressures.
No consequences... didn't that just open the door to cheating on a massive scale?
Cheating is such an ugly word. Yes, there were some anomalous pressures recorded. There was much tutting and shaking of heads.
But that changes this year, right?
Yes. Probably. The bikes now have to have a compulsory spec tire sensor fitted in their rims. The minimum front tire pressure is 1.88 bar, the minimum for the rear is 1.7 bar. Tire pressures have to be above those minimums for at least half the race.
How much is 1.88 bar in psi?
No idea. The FIM regulations use metric units. You'll have to do the conversion (1 bar =~ 14 psi) yourself.
What happens if riders are under the minimum pressure for more than half the race?
Officially, they will be disqualified, although this rule will not be applied at the first three races. Michelin and Dorna want to be sure the system is working properly first.
What's so difficult about putting the right pressure in a tire?
Putting it in is easy. Making sure it stays that way throughout a race is hard. Front tire pressures can vary a lot, depending on whether you are riding on your own or in a pack. On your own, there is cool air on the front tire, meaning the pressure remains stable. Ride in a pack and front tire temperatures can rise, and so do pressures.
What this means is that teams have to figure out how much pressures are going to rise by for a given temperature increase.
That's the easy part. The hard part is trying to guess whether their rider will be riding on their own for most of the race, or battling in a group with three or more other riders. That is based in part on qualifying position, and in part on crystal ball gazing.
The punishment for getting it wrong can be severe, however. If you start from 9th and expect to have to fight your way forward, you might choose a lower pressure expecting it to rise as you battle. But if the first couple of rows get tangled up in the first corner and let you through, you can find yourself with a front tire pressure that is far too low for most of the race, and face disqualification.
Alternatively, if you start from pole and expect to run away, but miss your braking point into Turn 1 and find yourself caught up behind a big group, the higher pressure you chose is likely to go well above a usable pressure, giving you less front grip.
So high tire pressures are bad?
Yes. Higher tire pressures mean a smaller contact patch and less deformation. That means less grip, and a very different feeling. Riders will tell you they are much more likely to crash once the pressure of the front tire goes above 2.2 bar.
Why do Michelin put the minimum at 1.88 bar? Why not at a lower pressure?
Because they are afraid that running at too low a pressure can cause the casing of the tire to be damaged, and therefore fail catastrophically. That would be bad.
Has that ever happened?
Not since Michelin's first year as official tire supplier in MotoGP, back in 2016.
What about the rear tire?
That's much less of an issue. The rear tire sits directly behind the engine, in a pocket of hot air. That's not good, but at least it's predictable, as it makes no difference whether you are riding in a group or not.
This is all well and good, but what about the big question: who is going to be 2023 MotoGP champion?
With an aesthetically pleasing 777 points (525 from feature races, 252 from sprint races) at stake, that's a harder question to answer than normal. A good finish in a sprint race is valuable, but you still need to finish top five in the feature race to stand a chance of scoring enough points to wrap up a title. Riders and teams have a choice of strategies they can pursue: focus on sprints and play it safe in feature races, or go for the win on Sunday and mop up whatever points you can in the sprint races.
I notice you didn't answer the question. Who is going to be 2023 MotoGP champion?
Pecco Bagnaia. Or maybe Fabio Quartararo. Or possibly Enea Bastianini. You know, Jorge Martin has had a good preseason. Alex Marquez has been surprisingly strong, and he's only just got on the Ducati. The Aprilias are looking good, and Aleix Espargaro was outstanding until the flyaways last year. Miguel Oliveira is coolly confident and in a much better place on the Aprilia RS-GP than hhe was on the KTM last year. And you can never write Marc Marquez off, no matter what he's riding...
You STILL didn't answer the question!
As the late, great Nicky Hayden said, that's why we line up on Sunday; you never know what's going to happen.
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I still hate the Sprint race.
For many reasons, not the least of which is because the phrases 'full race' or 'feature race' make my teeth ache.
Having said that, with so many points on offer, I have no sense of who is going to win the championship. Just hoping it's someone who
a) hasn't won it before and
b) achieves it by only 1 point at the last race.
The SPRINT RACES
I understand the concern that the Sprint Race dilutes the Grand Prix nature of the whole event. That concern seems to be balanced out by two things - first, what can be bad about more racing?, and second, it will be nice to have a race in which tyre preservation isn't one of the dominant considerations. (Having expressed this view - cue some riders to cook their soft rears in the first 6 laps...).
greater risk that a top rider ends up in the hospital
i hope we don't see an injury in the sprints ruin the championship. fully expect to see what's happened in sbk. lots of banging and barging presenting greater risk for crashes and injury, particularly with so many bikes close on times and so many ducs not used to running at the front of the grid. can hear the hue and cry now if mm, bangai or fabio go down in a sprint and out for multiple races or the season?
Technically all MotoGP races…
Technically all MotoGP races are sprint races as there are no pit stops for tires and fuel.
These new mini sprints are going to be absolute bar fights.
Everyone expects Peco to run away with the championship, but him and Fabio have a smooth riding style.
Great, unbeatable even, when you get out front and run away.
In a bar fight look for the bruisers.
Miller, Binder, Zarco, Martin, and of course MM93.
In reply to Technically all MotoGP races… by Mick-e
I feel like the bumper car…
I feel like the bumper car Marq meme is making a comeback very soon.
If you have been following Petrucci's negative comments on the WSBK sprint races it could be a general problem.
In reply to Everyone by rick650
Petrux is new to it - you…
Petrux is new to it - you need to ask those who have completed more than 2 races such as Rea, Bautista or Toprak.
My concern is about injury. A nasty fall in the sprint race with concussion will rule you out of the Sunday race.
WSBK do 3 races in a weekend so Motogp should stop being so precious about the change. Having said that - WSBK dont race every 2 weeks or in the case of some races - 1 week.
In reply to Petrux is new to it - you… by Andrewdavidlong
The frequency of the racing…
The frequency of the racing is a major difference. MotoGP has roughly 100% more events, but only 33% fewer races. There is much less recovery time afforded to GP riders, and sustaining an injury in the sprint will be a catastrophic event. That's why GP is so guarded about the addition of sprints.
In reply to Everyone by rick650
if you followed Petruccis…
if you followed Petruccis time in MotoAmerican, you would have seen a lot of sh!t posting.
In reply to Everyone by rick650
Petrucci is a winer
Petrucci is a winer
In reply to Everyone by rick650
I wouldn’t pay too much…
I wouldn’t pay too much attention of any negative comments coming from him since he made himself looking like fool when he was spouting off during his stint in MotoAmerica.
Seems to be a lot of people…
Seems to be a lot of people convinced that these sprint race are going to be exciting, bar to bar warfare. Plenty of WSB short races are as boring as sin, once riders get to the 5th lap and start getting in to their rythym the grid spreads out.
Also with the points only going to go to 9th place, i do wonder how much 'effort' will be put in by 12th place rider, i guess they will prepare their setup for the proper grand prix.
In reply to Seems to be a lot of people… by Jarnosar
Your last point is important…
Your last point is important. If a rider is running in, say, 12th without the pace to catch anyone, why not just pull in and save the engine? Hope we don't see too many sprint races with only half the field bothering to complete the distance
In reply to Your last point is important… by Champ
"Hope we don't see too many…
"Hope we don't see too many sprint races with only half the field bothering to complete the distance" -- I'm sure (if absolutely nothing else) potentially upset sponsors (or DORNA for that matter) will keep riders from pulling in early during the sprint races.
Rider fitness is my main concern. While WSBK might have 2 1/2 races a weekend, the bikes are vastly different and the forces much less. MotoGP riders are already having continuous issues with arm pump and the like due to various factors, and now Dorna has decided to drop 50% more laps at race pace on them. I still hold firm that testing the waters (a la Formula 1) with a handful of sprints would have been the smart play. But I'm just some internet armchair commenter so who even knows.
In reply to Rider fitness by lotsofchops
Agree about rider fitness,…
Agree about rider fitness, but these guys are literally at race pace very time they enter the track. If they weren't they wouldn't last long in MotoGP.
I'm not sure you're taking this seriously, David.
Thanks for the precis, and also the reminder that we probably shoudn't take this too seriously either.
The red flag is going to get a workout
Motogp is sooo close, and it is sooo difficult to pass the start is going to be critical. Realistically it is the only opportunity many riders will have to make any headway. They’ll just throw it in there and then defend for grim death.
I suspect we’ll see many a restarted race as the 1st corner becomes a bowling alley. Can’t blame the riders as there is no time to settle in and work your way forward, so what choice do they have?
Race Direction will need a new red flag by the Summer break, the old one will be well frayed.
Race or Practice
"Also with the points only going to go to 9th place, i do wonder how much 'effort' will be put in by 12th place rider, i guess they will prepare their setup for the proper grand prix."
An extremely valid point. I would be interested to hear D.E.s view on this. The rider would be better to turn the race into a quick practice session. If by (say) Lap 5 you are clearly out of the points why not pop into the pits & get a couple of (pre-arranged) tweaks to the bike & go back out to test them.
This time tho , they will…
This time tho , they will line up on Saturday :)
great article as always!
Timing Is Everything
Timing is everything they say. If sprints had been introduced in 2005, fans might have been over the moon. More win stats for Rossi and more laps to watch gladiators wrestle the indomitable 990cc bikes. The factories probably would have groaned since the engine service life and engine homologation rules were not part of the sport, but I doubt the fans would have humored their concerns.
The zeitgeist of our times is much different. Rossi is retired, and Marquez is in the twilight of a career that may be cut short by injury. Two nations have their motorcycling identity intertwined with the accomplishments of two fading stars so they are perhaps less receptive to the idea of padding stats. Dorna was aware of this and promised not to count sprints in the career win column, but as David opines, that promise has been made before. Additionally, fans of all nations are aware that the on track product is deteriorating. Rather than providing more bread and circus for the fans, it seems like Dorna is just forcing people to divert more of their time to follow the points-scoring affairs, which isn't the most welcome development on the heels of the calendar's rapid expansion. The amount of time and energy required to follow MotoGP has become staggering, and I can't help but think that Dorna is not really making the TV people happy as much as Ezpeleta is trying to suck all of the oxygen out of the room. MotoGP's strategic maneuvering to capture more of the audience's time makes me think that SBK is a goner in the long run. The FIM once tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to balance the needs of both series, it seemed like Bridgepoint acquiring SBK from InFront would lead to a cease-fire, but with the advent of expansive homologation procedures in GP, and now Saturday races, MotoGP is basically occupying and conquering SBK's turf. Dorna have admitted that they want to combine the series, but the manufacturers and teams are not really onboard. I wonder how much longer they can keep the tide from going out?
Anyway, let's hope that the strategic differences between sprints and grand prixs leads to some interesting events on track, and that Dorna apologize for intentionally misinterpreting the fan survey in a sad attempt to convince fans that Saturday sprints are something we demanded. The schemes of tinpot despots never cease to amaze.
If the past is any indicator, Sprint Races should be amazing
I dont know what it is about MotoGP fans but it seems like every change is declared to be the end of the sport, despite so many previous instances to the contrary. I still remember all the belly aching over the open class bikes and move to the spec ECUs for example.
I'm skeptical about sprint races as personally I don't want to have another event to have to watch on top of the stacked calendar.... but MotoGP's Chicken Littles have been so consistently wrong on concerns about changes to the championship that I'm kind of optimistic in a contrarian way. Let's at least survive the first sprint race before declaring them to be the end of MotoGP as we know it.
@david emmett I have noticed…
@david emmett I have noticed, since going to the new format, that I don't get an accurate split on comments versus new comments. On this thread it showed 20 comments. There are actually 9 new comments and 11 old comments. Sometimes the site seems to give me a number with new comments but often it doesn't. I haven't been able to find a common denominator on why it works sometimes, but usually doesn't?
In reply to @david emmett I have noticed… by racingrob
Yeah, the comments section definitely needs a tweak. Bit annoying, but what the hell? I'm sure David will have lots of time between races to work on it ... :-)
In reply to @david emmett I have noticed… by racingrob
I have also not yet been…
I have also not yet been able to find a common denominator as to why the comments don't show up as new always, which is making it hard to track down. Working on figuring it out.
In reply to I have also not yet been… by David Emmett
In reply to I have also not yet been… by David Emmett
Thank you for all your hard…
Thank you for all your hard work and fantastic writing.
In reply to Thank you for all your hard… by racingrob
Gladiator "Saturday Guy"
After Saturday, everyone is going to say they love Sprints outside of half the riders that aren't finishing well in that format. They will only be taken seriously when talking safety. There is likely to be a crash for obvious reasons.
This will be quickly followed by concern that Ducati are entirely dominating the Sprints via no fuel limitation and easy tire wear. Just a microcosm of the Season in general, but more intensively. Many of us will bemoan competition between brands.
Then? We discuss how GREAT the racing is! There WILL be brilliant racing. Also in discussion then, a great consideration of which riders are thriving, and how. Strategy and set up changes for Sprints. It is like halfway between Q and Full Race distance -- SUPER COOL!
We all get to be a part of something new and exciting. A "Quite Impolite Era" on track sans restraints of tire management conservative strategy. Amongst a quite convivial friendly to-date grid of riders. We all enjoy seeing "who excels at a Rider's Track?" so be ready for the same about Sprinters. One surprise awaits, a rider and perhaps a bike. Black bike? Not KTM who struggles in Q and finishes races better than it starts. Rider? Cloudy crystal ball... A.Marquez or Vinales?
Outright speed, balls, aggression with enough steady grounding + making your own luck, and good starts.
--- Just amongst "Ducati plus Aliens and Special Guest" up front, consider bowling ball do-or-die Martin on Saturday. Contact, too much. But Martin could parlay his Saturday successes into Sunday ones! "I won yesterday, so just repeat tomorrow holding out further. I hope Rins, Pecco and Fabio are OK but it was a racing incident."
Bagnaia, he's a Sunday guy that will have pressure. Another Duc is there (A.Marquez), plus Marc/Fabio. One Aprilia (Aleix is a Sprint guy, Oliveira is coming). You get the idea. But who is slated to be our first "He's A Saturday Guy!"?
Ennea Blastiannini, gladiator with a relaxed shrug and smile.
Saturday v Sunday
It would be kinda ironic if we all end up finding the Saturday racing more exciting and the ones we talk about most, rather than the ‘real races’ on Sunday’s. I imagine that for many of us it is all about the racing, the tactics, the shenanigans, and the bikes. The points, and the Championship are almost the by-product and our opinion won’t be swayed by Dorna point allocations.
It IS going to be exciting -…
It IS going to be exciting - gotta agree with that! Roll on the Racing!!
In reply to It IS going to be exciting -… by Chuckracer
It sure is!
not long to wait now people.
Marquez starts second row, gets a lightning start and skittles several Ducati’s
Everyone else then in with a chance for some points.
well, you never know do ya?
No Round 1 Preview Article?!
Is there REALLY no article on Weds or Thursday as a Preview?
(Did they replace the "bricks and rocks?"...which run off areas? Weather? Etc etc...)
A bit concerned about what isn't happening here on MM. Last time I'm sharing such things...waning involvement not just me? Have we lost a good thing?
In reply to No Round 1 Preview Article?! by Motoshrink
I'm not a big commenter here, so I'm hesitant to get too stuck in, but I agree. I've finally caught up on the off season news, tests, photos in full, and I'm ready for the round preview. A pass on this one as its covered in the season pre-view, perhaps?
One thing I haven't seen…
One thing I haven't seen explained anywhere is how red flags or delays/cancellations due to weather will be handled for Sprint races. For example if a thunderstorm happens Saturday afternoon, do we then have both the Sprint and the full race on Sunday?? And what are the minimum number of laps before a result can be called if there is a red flag late on in the Sprint race??
Why have Moto3 and 2 lost…
Why have Moto3 and 2 lost their warm up sessions on Sunday?
From a safety point of view it's not good if a bike was involved in a crash on Saturday, there's now no time to check that it all works correctly.