Marc Marquez and Thomas Luthi have both been issued a formal warning by Race Direction after the Moto2 race at Qatar. Marquez was warned over his pass on Luthi at the start of the last lap, while Luthi received the warning for the hard slap he gave on Marquez' throttle arm on the cooldown lap, when the Swiss rider went to remonstrate with the Spaniard over the pass.
The pass Marquez led to much heated debate after the race. The Spaniard passed Luthi on the way down the front straight, though his rear wheel never cleared Luthi's front wheel, and then pulled across in front of the Interwetten Paddock rider, forcing him wide. Marquez himself believed he was fully ahead of Luthi when he moved across, telling MotoMatters.com "I passed him on the straight, I was completely past him, and when I arrived at the braking point, I braked like I always do, and I saw him pass me on the left." Luthi accused Marquez of an unfair maneuver, leaving him no space, telling German TV that his front wheel had been level with Marquez' footpegs when the Spaniard moved left. As the riders returned to the pits, Luthi sought Marquez out to complain, slapping the Spaniard hard on his right forearm. As Marquez was riding one-handed, waving to the marshalls with his left, the move could potentially have been dangerous.
Race Direction took immediate steps against both riders. "The pass was reviewed immediately, and then reviewed again later in more depth and with different camera angles, and in the context of the whole race," Race Director Mike Webb told MotoMatters.com. "After the race, both riders were spoken with. The decision of Race Direction was that it was a very hard maneuver, on the borderline of acceptable racing. Marquez was warned, the equivalent of a yellow card."
Race Direction also warned Luthi for his reaction on the cooldown lap. "Luthi was also given a warning/yellow card for venting his obvious frustration after the chequered flag," Webb said, adding that both riders had accepted the warnings, and that as far as he was concerned the issue was done with. But the fact that a warning was issued was a clear message to all of the Moto2 riders that their actions would be subject to close scrutiny. Though no formal punishment was handed out, Race Direction were far from happy with the pass. "In this case, it was judged to be close to the limit, but not obviously malicious," Webb told MotoMatters.com.
The Marquez incident exemplifies the problems Race Direction faces in dealing with Moto2. The racing is so close in the class that riders have to push to the limit of what is acceptable to get past each other. Marquez' pass on Luthi was just one of a series of very close and hard passes throughout the race involving several different riders throughout the field. With spec engines, riders have to make the difference by taking risks when passing, instead of using the strengths of a different engine and bike to work in their favor. Added to that is the fact that the field consists of young riders trying to get the results needed to obtain a ride in the MotoGP class, making them err on the side of aggressiveness. That is part of the attraction of the class, and why it has become so popular with the fans, but it also demonstrates the risks involved in the class.
The dilemma facing Race Direction is how to rein in the riders and make the racing safer without ruining the excitement of the races. Their remit is to ensure that the racing is safe, but that involves finding the boundary between close, hard racing and a dangerous move, and the line between the two is not a hard and fast boundary. By issuing a warning to Marquez - Moto2's highest profile rider, with a reputation for hard and sometimes dangerous riding - Race Direction presumably wanted to send a message to all of the Moto2 field about what is and what is not acceptable. How Marquez responds to such a warning will be interesting to see; the fact is that should he pull a similar move again, then there is a very good chance that Race Direction will issue more than just a warning.