Valentino Rossi has lodged an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the penalty imposed upon him at Sepang for his role in the incident between Marc Marquez and himself. Rossi has asked the CAS to issue a stay of the penalty, effectively suspending it until the full case can be heard before the court. A ruling on the stay is to be issued by 6th November.
The penalty was imposed on Rossi after he and Marquez collided on lap seven of the Sepang round of MotoGP, causing Marquez to crash. At the time, Race Direction ruled that Rossi was to blame for the crash, and imposed three penalty points on Rossi. That brought his points total to four, meaning that he must start at Valencia from the back of the grid, regardless of the position he obtains in qualifying. Rossi immediately appealed against the penalty to the FIM Stewards, who sit in judgment at every MotoGP round to rule on Race Direction penalties.
With the Race Stewards upholding the Race Direction penalty, Rossi could no longer take his appeal any further within the FIM. However, he did have the possibility to take the case to the CAS, which rules on conflicts between interested parties (usually athletes) and the international federations and governing bodies of sports. Rossi had five days to submit an appeal, deciding to go ahead with the appeal on final day.
Normally, the CAS takes between 6 and 12 months to handle cases, and because it takes so long, Rossi has appealed for a temporary suspension of the penalty, under section R37 of CAS' procedural rules. Under that rule, Rossi can claim that upholding the penalty will cause "irreparable harm" to his MotoGP career and season. Two other factors are also taken into account: firstly, the merits of the claim, and lastly, whether Rossi's interests are greater than those of Race Direction, who imposed the penalty upon him. Under CAS rules, they will have to consult with Race Direction before ruling on whether or not to suspend Rossi's penalty.
The goal of the request for a suspension of the penalty is simple. By having the three-point penalty suspended, Rossi will not have to start from the back of the grid, having collected just a single penalty point outside of Sepang this year. He would start from the position in which he qualifies. If Rossi should then lose the case when the full CAS hearing is held, then the penalty would be applied at the next race after the CAS rules. That would likely be at the earliest in the first part of the 2016 MotoGP season. Theoretically, if Rossi were to retire after his contract expires in 2016, and the CAS take 12 months or more to issue a ruling, Rossi may end up not being penalized at all.
If the request for suspension is denied, then the grid penalty will be applied at Valencia, and Rossi will start from the back of the grid. If he subsequently goes on to win the appeal at the CAS, the penalty points would be subtracted retrospectively. However, given the fact that Rossi would have had to start from the back of the grid, winning the appeal would be meaningless in terms of the 2015 season.
What is the likely outcome of the request for suspension? It is very hard to say. Rossi has a case when he says that being forced to start from the back of the grid would cause him irreparable harm. However, that was precisely the point of Race Direction imposing this penalty, a case they will make for not granting the suspension. That will be the basis of the decision on whether Rossi's interests outweigh Race Direction's, as the penalty was meant to provide a specific punishment. Whether the CAS will decide that Rossi's claim has any merits is not clear. As the original decision of Race Direction was upheld by the FIM Stewards, the balance appears to be against Rossi. The CAS will make a ruling before or on 6th November 2015, in time for qualifying at Valencia.
To simplify the situation, here is a timeline of what has happened, and what happens next:
After the collision at Sepang, Race Direction imposed a penalty of three penalty points on Valentino Rossi.
Those points brought Rossi's total to four, meaning he must start Valencia from the back of the grid.
Rossi appealed against the decision by Race Direction to the FIM Stewards.
The FIM Stewards upheld the decision by Race Direction, meaning that the three penalty points stand.
Rossi has appealed that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), who will take between 6 and 12 months to hear the case.
Because the penalty will affect the outcome of the 2015 championship, Rossi has appealed for the penalty to be suspended until the CAS makes its final ruling.
If the CAS suspend the penalty, Rossi will start the Valencia race from the position in which he qualifies.
If the CAS refuse to suspend the penalty, Rossi will start the Valencia race from the back of the grid.
The CAS will give a final ruling on the case once the hearings are finished, at some point 6 to 12 months in the future.
No appeal is possible against the ruling of the CAS, unless at some point, the whole procedure is found to have breached Swiss law.
In a further twist, the CAS rules allow third parties to be involved in the case. Theoretically, that would allow Jorge Lorenzo, or even Marc Marquez to get involved in the case. As the current situation has already devolved into a PR disaster for Yamaha, having Lorenzo involved would only make things worse.
The official press release from the CAS appears below, and underneath that, the press release from the FIM:
FIM MOTOGP CHAMPIONSHIP 2015
VALENTINO ROSSI FILES AN APPEAL AT THE COURT OF ARBITRATION FOR SPORT (CAS)
Lausanne, 30 October 2015 – Italian MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi has filed an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the FIM Stewards’ decision to impose 3 penalty points on his record following an incident with another rider during the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix race held on 25 October 2015.
The FIM Race Direction found that Mr Rossi deliberately ran wide in order to force the other rider off line, resulting in contact causing the other rider to crash out of the race. For this breach of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix Regulations (the FIM Regulations), the FIM Race Direction imposed 3 penalty points on the rider’s record. Mr Rossi immediately appealed such decision to the FIM Stewards who dismissed the appeal and confirmed the penalty imposed by the FIM Race Direction. Since Valentino Rossi already has 1 penalty point from an earlier incident, this decision brings him to a total of 4 penalty points. On the basis of the FIM Regulations, a rider with 4 penalty points must start the next race from last grid position.
In his appeal to the CAS, Mr Rossi seeks the annulment of the penalty, or at least a reduction from 3 points to 1. Together with his appeal, Mr Rossi has filed an urgent application to stay the execution of the challenged decision in order not to lose his place on the starting grid at the next, and last, event of the season which will be held in Valencia/Spain on 6-8 November 2015.
An arbitration procedure is in progress. A decision on Mr Rossi’s request for a stay is expected to be issued no later than 6 November 2015.
VALENTINO ROSSI APPEALS FIM STEWARDS’ DECISION
Rider Valentino Rossi appeals FIM Stewards’ decision
On the basis of Article 3.4.2, para 3 of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix Regulations, Mr Valentino Rossi has filed an Appeal against the decision taken by the Race Direction of the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix in Sepang, penultimate round of the FIM MotoGP Grand Prix World Championship, and confirmed by the FIM Stewards, to award 3 penalty points to Mr Rossi following an incident on Turn 14.
In appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Mr Rossi seeks annulment or reduction of the penalty. He further requests stay of execution of the decision in accordance with Article R37 of the Code of Sports-Related Arbitration.
The FIM will not comment any further at this time.