Grand Prix Commission Introduces MotoGP-Style Qualifying For Moto2 & Moto3

The Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rule-making body, has decided to change the qualifying system used for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes and adopt the same system used in MotoGP. From next year, the fastest 14 riders across all three free practice sessions will pass directly into Q2, the rest going into Q1. The four fastest riders from Q1 will then also go to Q2, meaning 18 riders will fight it out for the front 6 rows of the grid.

The changes are aimed at achieving two ends. Firstly, to homogenize the qualifying procedure across all three Grand Prix classes, and helping Moto2 and Moto3 riders prepare for MotoGP. Secondly, to improve the show in qualifying, and make it more attractive and exciting for viewers, as has happened in MotoGP. 

Though both these aims are laudable, the new system may have an unintended negative consequence as well. At the moment, towing is mainly a problem during qualifying, as riders - especially in Moto3 - try to find a fast rider to follow in an attempt to improve their own qualifying position. It has created many dangerous situations during qualifying, with near misses as slower riders sit on the racing line while riders going full speed approach.

However, by raising the importance of FP1, FP2, and FP3, there is a real chance that riders will start looking for a tow in all three practice sessions. There is more to gain from finding the right tow in FP2 and FP3 than there is currently in chasing a tow in qualifying. A tow in free practice is now more likely to gain you a position in the first six rows than it might have when you have only one shot at it during qualifying.

On the positive side, it should reduce the number of riders waiting for a tow in qualifying, especially for Moto3. With Q1 and Q2 lasting just 15 minutes, riders don't have much time they can afford to waste looking for other riders for a tow.

The press release from the FIM with the new schedule appears 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 an electronic meeting held on 17 November 2018 made the following decision:

Standard Schedule for Events – Effective Season 2019

Format of Qualifying Practice in Moto2 and Moto3 Classes

After discussion with teams and reviewing the current situation in Moto3, with many riders waiting and riding slowly and considering the experience in Moto2 at various races where the fastest times have been set at the beginning of the Qualifying Practice, it has been decided to change to a qualifying format similar to that of the MotoGP Class. It is expected that this system will also bring a more entertaining format for the fans as well as preparing the young riders for the same system of classification as the premier Class. This will also make for a homogenous qualifying format across all Grand Prix classes.

Riders in Moto2 and Moto3, will continue to have three Free Practice sessions. The fastest 14 riders from the combined standings will qualify directly for Qualifying 2. The other riders will compete in Qualifying 1 and the four fastest riders will join the other 14 in Qualifying 2.

For both Moto2 and Moto3 the Free Practice sessions will last 40 minutes, and both Qualifying sessions will have a duration of 15 minutes.

The 4 riders that participate in both Qualifying 1 and 2 will be allowed to use one extra rear, soft tyre.

The standard schedule for Sunday will remain unchanged. The new standard schedule for Friday and Saturday will be:

09:00 – 09:40 Moto3 Free Practice 1
09:55 – 10:40 MotoGP Free Practice 1
10:55 – 11:35 Moto2 Free Practice 1
13:15 – 13:55 Moto3 Free Practice 2
14:10 – 14:55 MotoGP Free Practice 2
15:10 – 15:50 Moto2 Free Practice 2
09:00 – 09:40 Moto3 Free Practice 1
09:55 – 10:40 MotoGP Free Practice 1
10:55 – 11:35 Moto2 Free Practice 1
12:35 – 12:50 Moto3 Qualifying 1
13:00 – 13:15 Moto3 Qualifying 2
13:30 – 14:00 MotoGP Free Practice 4
14:10 – 14:25 MotoGP Qualifying 1
14:35 – 14:50 MotoGP Qualifying 2
15:05 – 15:20 Moto2 Qualifying 1
15:30 – 15:45 Moto2 Qualifying 2

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Based on what we see in last 20 minutes of MotoGP FP3, throw the combustible Moto3 into a desperate battle for the top 14 and it could be trouble.

I had a pretty big laugh this year, I can't remember which race it was (Brno I think) where the Moto3 riders (not all but many) waited in the box so other riders wouldn't get a tow. Well, they waited too long and didn't cross the finish line in time on their out lap and so NO ONE got a tow haha. I believe Jakob Kornfiel got a magic home pole position because of this. Will be interesting to see if there will be more "strategies" like this.

Most importantly, if it get riders to stop riding so dangerously waiting around it is a good thing. I'm not sure if that would really happen though

Simple: TV. The TV slot for MotoGP is 2pm, has been that way for decades. To allow MotoGP to practice at the same time that they race, giving them more or less the same conditions, FP2 and FP4/qualifying is around 2pm as well. But managing that during practice means moving Moto2 after MotoGP for practice and qualifying. With only a short warm up on Sunday morning, there is time to hold the Moto2 race before MotoGP

Given all of the complaints this year about how the Moto2 rubber effects the MotoGP race why don't they put Moto2 before MotoGP qualifying and then put Moto3 after? Maybe it wouldn't make a huge difference, but it's (at least) 15 min more track time on the same racing surface.