The MotoGP penalty point system is no more. The system, introduced for the 2013 season, whereby Race Direction could punish rider infringements with penalty points, which would accumulate throughout the year and could result in a race ban, has been scrapped at the latest meeting of the Grand Prix Commission.
The penalty points system had been introduced in response (at least in part) to a number of incidents involving Marc Marquez through the 2012 season. There were complaints from the fans, but also from teams and other riders, that Race Direction was not being even-handed in applying existing penalties to riders. It was sometimes hard for Race Direction to explain why one rider had been given a particular punishment, but another rider who had done something apparently similar had not.
In an attempt to make the situation simpler for all to understand, a penalty point system was introduced, similar to that used in several countries for driving licenses. Initially, riders who accumulated a total of 4 points would have to start from the back of the grid, then if they reached 7 points, they would start from pit lane. If they accumulated 10 points, they would be given a one-race ban, at which point the slate would be wiped clean.
The ban underwent a number of changes: first, penalty points were given a life of one year from the point of issue. Then, after the controversy surrounding the events at Sepang in 2015 involving Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi, when Rossi was given 3 penalty points in addition to one he already had, and forced to start at the back of the grid, the penalties at 4 and 7 points were dropped.
Now, just over a year later, the points system has been scrapped altogether. The official reason given by the Grand Prix Commission is because "the FIM MotoGP Stewards have many penalty options, the penalty points were no longer necessary".
There is some truth in that, and in the time since the penalty points system was introduced, Race Direction and the FIM MotoGP Stewards (another body set up in response to Sepang 2015), have been given more freedom to hand down penalties to rider transgressions.
But it appears that the penalty points system was too complex to work in practice, and didn't solve the problems it was meant to. Penalty points were meant to deter Moto3 riders from waiting on the racing line for a tow, but it did not stop them. Moving them back several places on the grid seems to have had more effect.
Nor has it stopped riders crying foul when issued with penalty points for a particular infraction. They still point at comparable crimes committed by other riders, and demand to know why that action received different treatment.
The points system was meant to create flexibility, but in the end, it had the opposite effect. Imposing punishments on an ad hoc basis, seems to work better than trying to systematize them. Each rider infraction is unique, and needs to be punished appropriately.
The fact that the FIM MotoGP Stewards are now on hand to assess rider infractions also makes it easier to impose appropriate penalties faster, and without having to resort to penalty points. The Stewards meet separately during the race, while Race Direction can get on and manage the safe running of the race. They are able to assess penalties during the race, and if necessary impose them while the race is running, including black flagging a rider or handing down a ride through.
Previously, Race Direction would wait until after the race was finished to assess incidents, and check carefully who was to blame. That made a system of accumulating points a more logical system. But it has been superseded by the FIM MotoGP Stewards.
The FIM press release from the latest meeting of the Grand Prix Commission is below:
FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission
The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Paul Duparc (FIM), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in the presence of Carlos Ezpeleta (Dorna), Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), Vito Ippolito (FIM), Steve Aeschlimann (FIM) and Corrado Cecchinelli (Director of Technology), in a meeting held in Losail on 25 March 2017, made the following decisions:
Machine Construction Materials Moto3 and Moto2 Classes
The ban on the use of titanium has been extended to include the entire chassis including the swinging-arm, suspension, handlebars, swinging arm spindles and wheel spindles. For wheel spindles the use of light alloys is also forbidden.
Pit Lane Safety
It was previously announced that the number of team staff working on a MotoGP class machine during bike changes in flag to flag racing and during QP1 and QP2 is limited to four, each of whom must wear a crash helmet.
After representations from the teams it has been confirmed that during QP1 and QP2 a maximum of six team staff are permitted, each of whom must wear a crash helmet. The maximum number in flag to flag bike changes remains unchanged at four.
Taking into consideration that the FIM MotoGP Stewards have many penalties options, the penalty points were no longer necessary. The Grand Prix penalty points are now withdrawn from the list of penalties.
Appeal against a decision of the FIM MotoGP Stewards
It was clarified that no appeal may be lodged if the FIM Appeal Stewards confirm the previous (disciplinary) decision of the FIM MotoGP Stewards. In this case, the decision of the FIM Appeal Stewards is final.
A regularly updated version of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations which contains the detailed text of the regulation changes may be viewed shortly on: