The time schedule for the 2018 round of MotoGP at Qatar is to undergo a radical shake up. As we have previously reported, from next season, the time slots are to be moved up much earlier, with most of the action taking place during the day, and only the MotoGP race to take place completely at night.
The change has been made to address a range of problems at Qatar. The 2017 race came under threat when rain started falling between the end of the Moto2 race and the planned start of the MotoGP race. Fortunately, the track dried sufficiently for the race to start with a 45 minute delay, but the later start pushed the race right into the time period during which the dew usually starts to settle on the track, rendering it treacherous.
The dewpoint at the track has caused problems ever since the race switched to being held at night. As temperatures drop during what is the most humid (a relative term, admittedly) part of the year in Qatar. That part of the year is also the time at which rain is most likely to fall, despite still being relatively rare. In 2017, rain caused the loss of qualifying for all three classes.
The new schedule sees all three classes holding their early practice sessions during the afternoon. FP2 and Qualifying for the Moto3 class will be late afternoon, while the Moto2 class draws the short straw and will hold its FP2 and Qualifying during sunset, which occurs at 17:44 on the weekend of the race. The setting sun could cause a few problems with vision, as the entrance to turns 6, 9, 10, 14, and 16 all face towards the direction of sunset. This could be even more pronounced during the Moto2 race, which is schedule to start at 17:20.
But the new schedule will help the MotoGP class, in a number of ways. Their afternoon practice all occurs well after sunset, with practice, qualifying, and the race all taking place at 19:00 local time. MotoGP practice also happens directly after Moto2, meaning the teams will have a chance to understand the track as it will be after the Moto2 race with the Dunlop rubber on the track. This should address a consistent point of complaint that the track feels different for MotoGP on Sunday, as at most races, MotoGP practice takes place before Moto2.
The switch to a different time schedule offers better choices in terms of planning as well. The race schedule has been reduced from four to three days again, the same as the other races on the calendar. It also offers the opportunity to run the race earlier in the year, as the dew is no longer a factor at that time of night. This should help if the calendar expands to 20 races in 2019 or beyond.
A new schedule should also help if rain should disrupt the race schedule again. As Moto3 and Moto2 start in daylight, they can race even if it rains. If it rains before the start of the MotoGP race, then Dorna can either hold a practice session in wet conditions, or wait for a while to see if the track dries. Rain tends to be torrential but short-lived in Qatar, and the track drying out quickly.
The new schedule is still provisional, and has yet to be fully approved. But it is a subject which has been under discussion since the 2017 Qatar round, and the way the weather affected it. After much debate between the teams, Dorna, and the circuit owners, this schedule has been settled on as the best compromise. It is almost certain to remain this way come 18th March 2018.
The proposed new schedule is below:
|Qatar Time Schedule For 2018|
|Friday 16th March|
|13:00-13:40||Moto3||Free Practice 1|
|13:55-14:40||Moto2||Free Practice 1|
|14:55-15:40||MotoGP||Free Practice 1|
|17:10-17:50||Moto3||Free Practice 2|
|18:05-18:50||Moto2||Free Practice 2|
|19:05-19:50||MotoGP||Free Practice 2|
|Saturday 17th March|
|13:00-13:40||Moto3||Free Practice 3|
|13:55-14:40||Moto2||Free Practice 3|
|14:55-15:40||MotoGP||Free Practice 3|
|18:30-19:00||MotoGP||Free Practice 4|
|Sunday 18th March|
|16:00||Moto3||Race (18 laps)|
|17:20||Moto2||Race (20 laps)|
|19:00||MotoGP||Race (22 laps)|