The engine allocation rules have claimed their very first victim since their introduction during 2009 at Brno. Valentino Rossi today told the media that he and the team had decided that he would be using his 7th engine here at Aragon tomorrow, and will take the accompanying penalty by starting from pit lane, 10 seconds after the rest of the field.
The decision was forced on Rossi and his crew because the new aluminium chassis which Rossi debuted here at Aragon has an extra mounting point on the rear of the cylinder head, to accommodate the longer rear spars from the chassis. The 6th engine Rossi used at Misano already had the new mounting points fitted, but the two other GP11.1 engines Rossi had did not have them, making it impossible to use with the new chassis. After practice on Friday, Rossi and his crew had decided that the new aluminium chassis was the right direction to proceed in, and that therefore, they would decide to use the 7th engine and suffer the penalty.
Aragon was a good track to start from pit lane, Rossi and his crew believed, because the exit of pit lane joins the track in the middle of Turn 2, minimizing the damage from starting 10 seconds after the rest. The decision was made easier by Valentino Rossi's poor qualifying, a mistake while on his soft tire meaning that he only qualified in 13th. Starting from pit lane was not that much worse than starting from 13th, and so the decision was made to use the new engine during warm up, and accept the penalty at Aragon.
"I think that for tomorrow, we can use the 7th engine, and start from pit lane, because unfortunately to have two bikes in aluminium, it is not possible with the older engine," Rossi said. "Also to understand the new chassis and also for next year, it is better to have two bikes the same, and I think that for tomorrow, we will start from pit lane with the 7th engine." The new aluminium chassis was not a revolution, but it was a step forward, Rossi said. "For me, I think we are on the good way, I feel better on the bike," Rossi explained. "This track [Motorland Aragon] is a bit different, because the rear is very important, and you don't use the front a lot like in other race tracks, so is not the best track to understand the new chassis. But we have to work, we have to develop," Rossi told the media. "I feel a bit better on the bike, for sure not fantastic but it is a small improvement," Rossi continued. "So we have to continue like this, because it is also the first step for the future."
The rules surrounding the engines are clear: each rider has an allocation of 6 engines for the season. Once the rider takes a bike out on track (defined as once the engine leaves pit lane during free practice, qualifying, warm up or a race), the rider is subject to a penalty. If they use the engine for the first time during practice, then the rider is forced to start the next race from pit lane. If they use the engine for the first time during a race (either at the start or when switching bikes during a flag-to-flag race) the rider is given a ride-through penalty.
The penalty is only imposed the first time the extra engine is used. Once the penalty has been completed, the engine becomes a normal part of the rider's allocation. If the rider takes another new engine, they will be subjected to a penalty once again.
In Valentino Rossi's case, the Italian will have to start the Aragon race from pit lane once he takes the second bike with the 7th engine out of pit lane, which will almost certainly happen during warm up on Sunday. He will then be able to race and start normally, unless one of the two engines (in this case, numbers 6 and 7) should develop a fault and have to be withdrawn from the allocation. If Rossi should decide to use an 8th engine for whatever reason, he will have to start from the pit lane at the race where the 8th engine is used. This, however, is very unlikely to happen.