Editor's Opinion: More Knee Jerk Rule Changes in Response to Sepang

Farewell, MotoGP penalty point system, we barely knew you. In a press release issued today (and rather bizarrely, leaked to a Spanish journalist two days ago) the FIM announced that the Grand Prix Commission had decided to modify the penalty point system. From now on, the only penalty to be imposed will happen once a rider accrues a total of ten points, at which point they will be disqualified for one race. The penalties for four (starting from the back of the grid) and seven points (starting from pit lane) have been dropped. At a stroke, the penalty point system has been emasculated.

In fact, it is worse than that. The penalty point system was introduced to try to clamp down on persistent offenders of relatively minor infractions, and especially of Moto3 riders waiting on the racing line for a tow. The idea was that putting those who had not learned their lessons after the first couple of warnings would start to feel the consequences of their actions if they were subject to a rising scale of punishments.

Get out of jail free card

That system is now gone, but the penalty points remain. In effect, the punishment for persistent offenders has been as good as removed. Riders can look for a tow, pick up a point here and a point there, and get away scot-free. Meanwhile, Race Direction and the newly appointed FIM MotoGP Panel of Stewards have not been given an alternative for punishing persistent offenders.

In the light of recent experience, it will be difficult for them to do anything other than hand out penalty points. Any other punishment will be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who will look at precedents in recent Grand Prix history, and change the punishment to the awarding of penalty points. The riders playing caravan in Moto3 will carry on as before, knowing they are virtually immune from punishment. MotoGP's disciplinary proceedings have had their fangs thoroughly and surgically removed, and been given nothing to replace them with. This is, quite literally, the worst of all possible worlds.

Too big to fail

And all because the two biggest names in motorcycle racing got into a spat at Sepang, and behaved like petulant brats before, during and afterward. Or rather, because the series organizers did not have the gumption to stand up to their shining stars and chief moneymakers, and Race Direction failed to anticipate just how badly the situation would get out of hand.

We have been over this ground before, and so I shall restrict myself to a short recap of events, just to highlight where the series organizers failed. Valentino Rossi, mulling his fourth place at Phillip Island, decided to blame Marc Márquez for his misfortune, rather than the obvious target, Andrea Iannone, the man who had bumped him off the podium. Rossi made a series of attacks on Marc Márquez in the press conference at Sepang, accusing him of conspiring against Rossi, and of helping Jorge Lorenzo to win the 2015 MotoGP title. A bizarre claim, given that Márquez had beaten Lorenzo into second place when he could easily have allowed the Yamaha rider to win the race.

Inaction man

At this point, Yamaha management did not step in to warn Rossi against this course of action. Race Direction did not call Rossi and Márquez in to discuss the dispute. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta did not call Rossi in to ask him what the hell he was thinking.

When Rossi and Márquez met on track during practice, and starting acting the fool, slowing down to what in cycling is known as a sprinter's sur place, Race Direction did not call the pair in to try to defuse the situation, despite pleas from Yamaha management. For their part, neither Honda nor Yamaha management took either man aside, and gave them a stiff talking to, and demanding they start acting like grown ups.

Then there was the actual clash on track during the race, and the three penalty points handed out to Valentino Rossi, forcing him to start from the back of the grid. There were accusations from Marc Márquez' entourage that Rossi had deliberately kicked his handlebar, and tried to make him crash. There were further accusations from Rossi that Márquez had let Lorenzo through and was deliberately trying to slow Rossi up to help Lorenzo in the championship.

For once, Race Direction did the right thing: they did not make a hasty decision, but waited until the end of the race, examined the footage of the incident and events leading up to it from as many angles as possible, called both riders in to explain themselves, and handed down a reasonable and fair punishment.

Out of the frying pan, and into the fire

At Valencia, Dorna then did the worst thing possible, and canceled the pre-event press conference. Instead of facing an uncomfortable, thorough, and likely very long public grilling from the press, where we journalists would immediately be able to put each rider's responses to the other, get their reaction, and force them to defend themselves in a neutral location, Rossi and Márquez were able to sit in their own territory and handle softball questions from a largely friendly press.

HRC – under pressure from Márquez' entourage, and very much against their own better judgment, sources tell me – made promises they would release the data from Márquez' bike, which, they claimed, would prove that there had been a kick at Sepang, then reneged on that promise under pressure from Dorna and the FIM. Throughout the entire process, the FIM have managed only to make the situation worse, by trying to sweep the whole thing under the carpet.

At no point did anyone who were charged with actually running the show pull the protagonists – make no mistake, this was between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez, and no one else, despite Jorge Lorenzo's regrettable show of disapproval on the podium at Sepang – in to give them a stiff talking to and tell them to pull the socks up. Nobody stood up to either Rossi or Márquez to tell them they were behaving like spoilt toddlers. Instead, Dorna called everyone into a rider briefing, at which they skirted round the issue, never addressing it directly.

Deus ex machina

The low point of the entire situation came after the Valencia race, when Carmelo Ezpeleta went into Valentino Rossi's garage to commiserate with him, and Rossi told the Dorna CEO, and the man who is supposed to be running the whole show, to come to his motorhome, where they would talk about what happened. When the boss of the MotoGP series is afraid to stand up to the main star of the series, and a corporation as mighty as Honda is afraid to stand up to the people who surround Marc Márquez, there is a serious failure of authority. The lunatics are running the asylum.

Since then, there have been a series of knee jerk reactions to events, and a series of hastily made changes to the rules which look both unnecessary and ineffective. The responses of Dorna, the FIM and the factories are reminiscent of Macbeth: a tale told by an idiot, full of sound of fury, signifying nothing.

Am I being excessively harsh on the responses of the series organizers? There is a maxim in legal history, that hard cases make bad law. Underlying this is the idea that basing rules and regulations for general application on very specific circumstances and exceptional protagonists is a bad idea. Rules are better made to be as generic as possible, to cover general situations, no matter who is involved. Justice, after all, is supposed to be blind.

Alternative histories

As a mental experiment, it is worth imagining that the events which unfolded between Rossi and Márquez had happened between two other riders, of lesser fame and (I hope they will be forgive me for saying this) of lower significance. Going into Sepang, just two points separated Hector Barbera and Loris Baz in the Open class classification. Being top Open rider may not have meant very much to the average fan, but for those involved, it usually meant six figure bonuses from their teams. For a rider who is either on a minimal income, or even paying to ride, such a bonus is a much bigger deal than the championship bonus for a top factory rider.

What would have happened if Loris Baz had called out Hector Barbera ahead of Sepang, and tried to run him off the track? Given how Race Direction handled the Rossi – Márquez clash, you would expect them to behave broadly similarly, putting Baz to the back of the grid.

Would the Valencia press conference then have been canceled? Would the president of the FIM have issued an open letter calling for fair play? More importantly, would the penalty point system and the organization of Race Direction have been altered, and a panel of stewards introduced to handle infractions of rule 1.21.2, irresponsible riding?

What's in a name?

Of course they wouldn't have. The penalty point system may have been examined in due course, but it was constantly being tweaked to try to make it more effective. Discussions may have been held about the role played by Javier Alonso of Dorna in Race Direction, his involvement perhaps being reduced, or removed from disciplinary matters. But there would not have been a wholesale reevaluation of the entire disciplinary system, and the accompanying soul searching.

If Baz and Barbera had clashed on track and off the way that Rossi and Márquez did, they would have been called straight in to Carmelo Ezpeleta's office, where they would have been given a proper dressing down. They would have been forced to shake hands, and if necessary, forced to sit together through a press conference in which they made amends.

All this is not to say that the entire #SepangClash incident has not been good for MotoGP. In fact, it has been fantastic, generating masses and masses of media coverage well beyond the reach of the specialist media. It has got Formula One drivers praising the vibrancy of MotoGP as a sport. Dorna have probably made a very large amount of money off the back of the incident, as interest from TV companies around the world has increased. Of course, this was not part of some giant Dorna plan: never did the old adage "do not assign to malice what can safely be attributed to incompetence" hold more true.

Beyond the status quo

Did the penalty point system need changing? Perhaps, but its wholesale evisceration has only made things worse. A much stricter application with harsher punishments could have made a bigger difference. Most of all, a lot more consistency was needed than has been shown so far, but such things take time.

Alternatively, it should have been abandoned altogether, and Race Direction granted more freedom in the penalties they were allowed to hand out. If Race Direction had been able to hand out much harsher penalties when they felt it was warranted, they may have been able to stamp some of the more egregious abuses of the rules in the bud. Motorcycle racers, like all elite athletes, are not like ordinary people. They respond better to direct, harsh punishment, than to just, fair and considered action.

That does require that Race Direction can treat every rider in the same way, and that in turn requires the support of the series organizers and the FIM. There can be no doubt about who is in charge of the MotoGP series. As it is, the suspicion is that riders such as Marc Márquez, and especially Valentino Rossi, wield more power than they rightly should. When things start to get out of hand in the psychiatric ward, the staff should be putting the place on lockdown, not handing the keys over to the inmates.

Commercial interests vs sporting regulations

The perception that nobody is at the helm of MotoGP is reinforced by the formal addition of an existing contractual obligation into the rules. Currently, when factories and teams sign up to compete in any of the three Grand Prix classes, they sign an agreement not to criticize the series beyond reason. This contractual obligation is only loosely enforced, mostly by way of a few sharp words from Manel Arroyo, Carmelo Ezpeleta's right-hand man.

Now, the same contractual obligations are to be included in the regulations. While this isn't nearly as bad as having a "bringing the sport into disrepute" clause, it transfers the conditions of a commercial agreement into the sporting regulations, thereby handing over the enforcement of those conditions to an organization which is supposed to stand above the sport, and outside of commercial considerations. Who, after all, is to judge whether a press release or statement is "irresponsible and hence damaging to the sport"?

The issue was highlighted with hilarious clarity by TV commentator and noted wit Duncan Bishop. "Quotes of 'we will try our best, the important thing is to have fun on the bike etc' are damaging. Because they are so BORING,' Bishop wrote. "And what are the penalties for these statements? Just so I know if I'm going to get a 1 race ban and fine for a press release."

There is a place for managing the statements made by teams, factories and riders, and that place is right where it has been: in the participation agreements signed between the parties. Putting such stipulations in the rules is the best possible way of reducing riders and teams to impossibly bland and empty statements, devoid of any interest or humanity. This is a tendency which has been gaining ground in recent years, as sponsors and factories clamp down on what riders can say or do. Adding an extra layer of bureaucratic enforcement with penalties which could affect the racing out on track would be the final nail in the coffin.

The whole statement smacks of a compromise cooked up among the factories and Dorna to try to keep everyone happy. Yamaha and Dorna were not best pleased by Honda's press release claiming that Rossi had kicked at Marc Márquez' brake lever and caused him to fall. In turn, neither Dorna nor Honda were enamored of Valentino Rossi's claim that the 2015 championship had been rigged, and that the Spaniards had conspired against him, precluding a fair and open championship.

Physician, heal thyself

The irony is that the change once again merely makes the situation worse, rather than better. It is yet another knee jerk reaction to a situation caused by riders who are bigger than the sport. Instead of attacking the root cause of the situation, and putting pressure on the riders to behave a little more like adults, they try to handle the whole thing in the rulebook.

Whatever Valentino Rossi or Marc Márquez may have done at the end of the 2015 season, their actions were nowhere near as bad as the knee jerk responses coming from the men (for it is almost entirely a group of men) who are ostensibly supposed to be running the sport. If the Grand Prix Commission want to enact a rule preventing people from issuing press releases and statements which may be considered damaging to the sport, they may want to start by fining themselves, for the wanton chaos they have created in the wake of the Sepang incident.

The official FIM press release containing the rule changes is shown below. For the purposes of both information and entertainment.


FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), with the participation of Javier Alonso (Dorna) and Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary), in various electronic meetings held in February 2016, made the following decisions:

Sporting Regulations

Effective Immediately

Various minor modifications were approved:

The position that a machine must take up in the marked positions on the starting grid has been defined more precisely.

The procedure to be adopted when the sighting lap has been dry but there is rain whilst the riders are on the grid has been modified. The effect is to reduce delay in starting the race whilst still giving teams sufficient time to make changes to the machines.

Under previous regulations the penalty imposed during the actual race for overtaking under a yellow flag was fixed with the rider having to go back a number of places. In future it is possible for different penalties to be imposed but still including the possibility of the rider having to go back a number of places.

A new condition has been included in the regulations which reflects obligations on teams and riders already included in the Team Participation Agreements concerning public pronouncements. The effect of the regulation is that Teams and Riders must not make statements or issue press releases that are considered to be irresponsible and hence damaging to the Championship. Of course, the new regulation does not seek to prohibit responsible expressions of legitimate disagreement with the MotoGP Management, Organisers and/or MotoGP policies.

Disciplinary Regulations

Effective Immediately

Following recent decisions concerning the competence of Race Direction and Stewards to impose penalties, other modifications have been made to the Disciplinary Regulations.

The Panel of Stewards will be known as the FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel and they will be responsible for deciding on penalties that are not considered to be matters of fact. Anyone receiving a penalty from the FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel may appeal to the FIM MotoGP Court of Appeal which is required to hear and rule on any appeals within four days.

The system of Penalty Points will now only count towards the penalty of disqualification from an event which will happen when a rider accumulates 10 Penalty Points. The interim penalties previously triggered after accumulating four or seven points, no longer apply.

Penalty Points will continue to be recorded against the record of the rider for 365 days. However, when a rider has accumulated 10 or more points and suffered a disqualification 10 points are removed from his record.

A regularly updated version of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations which contains the detailed text of the regulation changes may be viewed shortly on:

http://www.fim-live.com/en/sport/regulations-and-documents/grand-prix/


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Total votes: 120
Total votes: 180

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Comments

I don't mind the above changes, but for the Moto3 riders looking for a tow, let them be caught and give them a 20 minute "pit penalty" for getting a tow. This will mean that their qualifying is cut massively short and they'll be at the back of the grid anyways thus eliminating towing in one go. Nobody will do it because if they get caught again they'll have to go to the pits again, virtually wasting the rest of their qualifying time and they only have themselves to blame for starting at the back.

Total votes: 141

An excellent analysis of a total farce. I particularly like and agree totally with this statement
"Putting such stipulations in the rules is the best possible way of reducing riders and teams to impossibly bland and empty statements, devoid of any interest or humanity."
It would be nice to see the riders and teams themselves should stand up against this stupidity.

Total votes: 133

I'm not particularly a huge fan of either rider off the track but I must say this.
Despite those deplorable actions on and off the track, it is important to recognize that there has been little or no inflammation of the situation from Marquez directly nor from his employee or team. And I do NOT regard hrc wishing to provide evidence to 'defend' their rider as inflammatory but a right.
It is not ok to reference misdemeanours by either party (HRC/MM's team relationship etc) not directly related to this incident to somehow negate the implications of this matter.
In the end, NOTHING was mentioned before Rossi's initial accusations, Rossi was penalised not Marquez, Marquez has been extremely mature regarding the whole issue from what I have seen and only one rider is willing to move on and finally only one of the riders fulfilled his obligation by attending the prestigious DORNA presentation night where the culmination of the highs and lows of the season is put on show.
Only one of these riders has shown the gumption that will let them hold their head high despite the very lopsided abuse from his arch enemies mignons. Who would have thought it would be the young guy in his early 20's over the 37 year old?

Total votes: 204

I better not write what I'm thinking because I don't want to be banned from this website forever. Why would one want to baffle them with logic and brilliance, when instead, we could try to baffle them with bullshit? Long, deep, sigh.

Total votes: 134

I literally slid down here to say the EXACT same "April 1st already?!" comment. Me too Mania.

This is WACKADOO. What has just gone on? Did someone throw a fit because yesterday they were fined enough to buy a small country having been caught cooking the books? Did our purported Spanish turned Italian biased referees explode upon arrival with a mandate to transform their department however they see fit in order to make the riders happy? Is this a reactive backlash from Dorna to pressure following the (expletive) late last season?

Whomever came up when this genius plan needs to start at the back of the grid. Flummoxed.

Total votes: 132

Frankly, this move to me just reinforces everything that Stoner said when announcing his retirement.

It's not a 'sport', pitting the skills and abilities of riders (and of course, the technical abilities of manufacturers) any more - it's a 'show', where the riders are disposable assets. It's no more - any more - than real-life "Rollerball".

Every rider who ventures out on the track risks his or her life - and sometimes that bet is called in. Ezpeleta, the FIM stewards, Race Direction: do NOT risk their life. They are not the ones carted off to the Medical Centre to have their shattered bones and torn ligaments triaged, to be attended to by experts later and live their post-motoGp lives out with increasing pain and suffering from their injuries.

The simple physics of racing at any level - let alone GP level - means that the risks to the riders are manifold. In practically any other imaginable 'workplace' - and riders are employees - any reduction of pro-active safety measures would result in huge liability payouts when it all goes pear-shaped.

This move is to me the most blatant and appalling demonstration that the commercial interests of the organisers of the competition place the safety of riders as a non-issue.

I have an idea: put Ezpeleta and his minions, the FIM stewards, Race Direction etc. on the back of the old Ducati 2-seater with Randy Mamola up front, and throw it out in the middle of a practice session with riders trolling on the race line, bashing fairings, block-passing...

And then - when they have a decent idea of what is involved - put their children on the back of that bike and see how much concern they then have for rider safety.

This move is top of my personal list as the most retrograde contribution for improving GP rider safety, since forever.

Total votes: 162

IMHO
I'm glad to see the penalty points tossed
I don't think 93 or 46 acted like "spoilt brats" they acted like pissed off motorcycle racers that are wildly compedative and insane with adrenelin. Which, on a good day brings out the best in riders and on lesser days 93 crashes. I don't want this sport over managed, cleaned up and sterilized. And I think the massive response from fans towards this incident has let race direction know what people want to see - racing. Fairing bashing, shoulder rubbing, knock down drag out racing. I don't want riders to get hurt any more than the next guy but if two guys want to go at it then let them. You want safe, go watch race walking. When MM's crew screwed up the lap count in Aus and he got black flaged, that was the first time I've ever seen him throw down his chest protector. Oh look emotion!
I'd like to see a rider that's pissed off trash his garage, smack another rider if called for. If Casey didn't like Rossi wearing his helmet to talk to him, then tell him to take it the fuck off and smack him one. Where's this generations Berry Sheene? Oh yeah, the corporate types snipped his balls. One of the reasons people like Rossi is that on occasion he speaks freely.

Total votes: 191

You suggest we return to a largely mythical time when men were men, racers raced, the public watched, and sanctioning bodies got out of the way. "Fairing bashing, shoulder rubbing, knock down drag out racing." Don't forget, this was also a time when major outside sponsorship was extremely rare and there was nothing coming from Dorna and most race teams were self-funded or, if they were lucky, funded to some extent by wealthy, if not always benevolent, patrons.

The sport we love today relies on major sponsorship, Dorna, and wealthy patrons. Aside from a few wealthy patrons, those funding MotoGP are doing so for a return on their investment. They are entitled to protect it as they see fit. Like it or not, that's the price we pay to watch.

"...if two guys want to go at it then let them." Among the flaws with this plan are: an assumption that, when two riders mix it up, it's aways consensual; and that any ensuing incident would only involve those two riders.

But you're right in essence. Personality makes good copy. Good copy sells tickets. Sold tickets means we all get to witness the pinnacle of motorcycle roadracing--trackside or from our couches.

Like you, I'm not convinced throttling the life out of things is the best way to ensure ROI. On the other hand, I can see where there has to be some measure of control.

Total votes: 157

Obviously your being close to the scene and more importantly to the backstage affords you a better judgement of what has transpired regarding this sad matter. I could imagine you have omittted more sad and sorry behavior like Ezpeleta's visit to Rossi's garage, because you love the sport and only want to improve it, not bring it down.
Having myself reached about the same conclusion, about incompetence and lack of leadership as well as of FairPlay for all, I have chosen to not renew my MotoGP subscription.
I realize it is not going to hurt Dorna as supposed to, as you so correctly described the economics of the ugly shenanigans, but it is the only means of showing my disapproval I have. And thanks to you and to this site David, I will still enjoy my beloved racing.

Total votes: 161

So Rossi and Marquez will be able to bump, bore and try to run each other off the track like it's motocross or a mile dirt track, but they won't be able to talk about it afterwards. Err, bring it on?

And penalty points clearly weren't dealing with the Moto3 qualifying problem so if you want to be on the front row, you'll just have to slice through the traffic. That's what the good riders were doing anyway.

Total votes: 162

One of the few readers that can separate emotion from reality and acknowledge that the rules are to protect the show and little to do with preventing another Sepang.

Total votes: 130

Almost certainly this won't be the last rule change!
At some point during this coming season something will occur that takes these clever rule makers by surprise!
At that point they'll say, "Hey, we didn't foresee that happening! Let's go back to the Bar and concoct some more bullsh*t to baffle the public!"

The reason I mention the Bar is that they must have been drinking copious amounts of cheap red wine to come out with the above drivel and then actually put it in print!

Total votes: 159

Marquez has been implicated on this and other sights as contributing to the implementation of these outrageous rules.
Please remind me again what his contributions were.

Total votes: 173

The whole penalty points system came into being because of Marquez. If you think Marquez did nothing wrong last year and is completely blameless I won't even bother. You've blinders on.

Total votes: 178

If you cared to read the article, the topic and implementation of the rule changes has nothing to do with behaviour on track.
If you think Marquez is the first rider with superior pace to cool his heels before a final push then you need to reconsider what racing is to you. Rossi's reaction to what he thought should have been a two way fight between he and Lorenzo is what has brought this about and a true champion must achieve the best results he can at each round against all comers not just the title contenders.
We saw great racing somewhat ruined by an over-reaction by a rider who struggled to keep his composure, the resultant reaction by the rule makers is clearly to curb the off track nonsense and nothing more.
Marquez behaviour in this case cannot be faulted.

Total votes: 117

We'll have to agree to disagree on most of this, which I'm happy enough to do.

The troubling things are the categorical statements from so many people when there is clearly so much doubt.

Phillip Island: How does an inferior rider with no world championships to his name, on an inferior bike, pass not one but two ex-world champions with 13 WC's between them, on a stretch of track shorter than my driveway if Marquez is NOT being obstructive?

If Marquez was really looking after his tyres why did he engage in trench warfare with Rossi and Iannone when he could have sat back, waited, and been no worse off? What he exhibited was NOT tyre saving behaviour despite his words to the contrary.

How do you reconcile Marquez rolling over for Lorenzo at Sepang then fighting tooth and nail with Rossi?

Do you think Marquez would have patiently followed line astern without a single attack if it was Rossi leading that last race at Valencia?

What of Lorenzo's statement post Valencia:

"They knew what I had in play," Lorenzo said. "The fact they are Spaniards like me helped me.

"That helped me because for sure in another kind of race they would have tried to overtake which they didn't this time."

So your statement regarding Rossi wanting a 2 way battle needs to be re-evaluated. For all we know Rossi simply wanted an even fight "against all comers" exactly as you say......but it's very obvious from Lorenzo's statement that Rossi had to face all comers where Lorenzo didn't. So the question has to be asked: are you prepared to apply your own "true champion" rules to Lorenzo?

Bottom line there is more than enough evidence to support why Rossi felt he had to air the dirty laundry. That laundry may not be as dirty as he makes out but it is far from being clean.

Total votes: 130

Lorenzo's statement was a typical heart on the sleeve, patriotic gush, in reality, he was too far ahead to make a proper assessment of what happened in any of the last races and that statement was made well before he had a chance to watch a replay of the race.
I can't take your comments about Iannone or the ducati seriously no matter how many times I read it, coupled with the type of racing Phillip Island throws up time and time again, I think you're way off the mark. Secondly, why was Iannone immune from criticism by Rossi? He was as aware of the title implications as anyone else involved in the fray AND he is a friend of the Italian afterall.
As I've said before riders have always been able to use blocking tactics if they choose to do so (not to the degree od Sepang of course!) and the most damning evidence against Rossi is that before his statement, the race was lauded as 'another' PI classic, not an iota of suspicion appeared from you, journalists or anyone for that matter, even his team wouldn't openly support his claims.
Marquez can be quoted many times regarding his issues with the Honda, he bit the dust enough times before any controversy appeared so it is absolutely possible that Phillip Island, Sepang and Jerez might see markedly different styles of racing from the young Spaniard. He was quoted as explain his tyre strategy well before Phillip Island so it is again completely possible that his tyre saving measures are plausible and I believe probable.
Lorenzo steam trained the closing half of the season and Rossi knew it, he earned that title without a doubt, it could have been closer but that was of no doing of Lorenzo's.
Rossi only wanted an even fight with Lorenzo, his statements made it clear others had no place to affect the title outcome should the race pan out that way, certainly not the way I view racing especially in the premier class where each rider and team has so much invested to succeed.
In the end, the PI lap chart meant nothing, you could see similarities in any race where riders are scrapping especially riders with such different styles on bikes with vastly different strong points.
I'll ask you this, were you critical of Valentino Rossi at Laguna Seca in 2008? Because the machinations of that race are very very similar to Phillip Island in 2015. Of course the main difference being Stoner pulled himself together and drew the line at retaliation in the manner that Rossi decided to employ.

Total votes: 133

I dislike MM tremendously but, I am with you, I don't see where he did a thing. That's the conundrum. His actions could be interpreted in different ways. I give him the benefit of the doubt, others do not. They believe they know what he was thinking and his intent. I don't pretend to be able to read minds. He did nothing obvious as far as I can see.

Total votes: 150

"For once, Race Direction did the right thing: they did not make a hasty decision, but waited until the end of the race, examined the footage of the incident and events leading up to it from as many angles as possible, called both riders in to explain themselves, and handed down a reasonable and fair punishment."

Actually couldn't disagree with you more here. In the hypothetical scenario between Baz and Barbera, Baz would have immediately been black flagged and would have gotten a stern talking to by RD, would have been villified in the media etcetera etcetera.

It was clear as day what happened. To everybody. By not acting on what happened right in front of their eyes RD allowed their judgment to be clouded by other parties' interests. They then came out with a laughable statement about how it affected the championship, which should be of no consequence whatsoever.

Another hypothetical scenario: what if it was the last race of the season and Rossi's third place got him the championship? What would RD have done then?

This makes it pretty clear it was all a mess started by the stupid decision not to act.

Total votes: 150

"It was clear as day what happened. To everybody. " Please don't speak for me. I accept that it was "clear as day" to you. It was anything but for me.

Total votes: 160

Fine by me. You can be blinded to the truth if you so wish. The mere fact that RD was in a dilemma shows you're wrong. They had to penalize Rossi and everybody knew that. That's the whole problem here, any other rider would have gotten the boot from RD during the race but because mister Rossi is bigger than the sport the drama started.

If you're going to try to argue Rossi did not deserve any punishment at all I'm afraid you're too far gone.

Total votes: 137

What did Rossi do? He called out another rider he thinks was riding dirty. Did he walk up to Marquez and clock him one right across the chin? No. He stated his mind, his peace, his opinion, whatever you want to call it, nothing more. If you believe it or not is completely irrelevant because he believes it. And in this sport he's earned the right to state as much and say so if he so chooses whether you like it or not. He's earned that right in spades. This occurs in every sport there is. Only in MotoGP do I see all the crying about it. Men are riding very fast and dangerous machines in anger, sorry, this is going to happen every now and again.

What followed? Marquez playing a very dirty and dangerous game on the track, 1 on 1, Rossi had enough, slowed the both of them down as to say "Marc you are going to hurt yourself or both of us, your riding is way over the line", then many journalists acted like tots throwing their toys out of the prams, many fans as well. Race direction could have done something prior, pulling them both to the side. They chose not to do anything. So be it. Rossi got penalized, didn't agree with it, and tried what he could to have the penalty removed. He lost that attempt, rode one hell of a last race of the season @ Valencia, and here we are about to start 2016. Continually trying to point him the villain, well don't expect everyone to agree. If it was me I would have run Marquez off the track completely.

Good riddance to this point stuff. For some reason I am reminded of a comment that Chris Rock, of all people, said last year, or the year before. He stated he won't play college venues anymore. The current crop of college students in the USA are so PC, that he cannot say anything controversial about anything without them crying about it. It got so bad, so pc, that he just said the hell with it, not playing those venues any longer. This is motorcycle racing, it will never be fully safe so the continual attempts to make it pc, everyone holding hands, when their job is to run laps in anger, well it's not going to happen.

duffyg, great post above.

Total votes: 182

You know what he did. He tried to stir up a controversy when he knew he couldn't win the championship on pace. And he knew he couldn't count on Lorenzo to screw up all the time. He didn't talk to him and try to get this matter resolved. That was a planned attack. He got what he deserved. And it was "sitting up and warning Marquez". That was a blatant move to run Marquez off the track. And in clear breach of the rules. If it was any other rider, even a championship contender we wouldn't even be having this conversation. I don't know what yello fan girls are trying to prove when his own team said that they cannot defend his actions. Don't care if the penalty system goes. Rossi lost his chance to win his last championship. And he has nobody but himself to blame for it.

Total votes: 168

Has anyone ever let you know that you can make your points in a less immature manner without any insults and people who are actually willing to read and think about other peoples opinions will be about 99% more likely to read them.

Total votes: 140

should be able to appreciate the comment (whether they agree or not) and not get caught up in the tiny amount of niggle put in there by the poster.
I think the comment is on the money.

Total votes: 136

It's not a tiny piece of niggle. It's a continuing narrative that this website used to avoid.

Total votes: 146

As this is an opinion piece, I am allowing a little more freedom of expression, publishing comments which would otherwise be rejected. Under more the usual stories, such as the daily round ups and other news stories, higher standards will apply.

This will be a continuing problem for at least this year, and probably beyond: the Rossi-Marquez clash is going to have a long-term impact among fans all season, and probably until Rossi retires. Comments on the subject will be policed firmly, with occasional leeway granted under opinion and blog pieces.

Total votes: 134

was choose what was an inappropriate time and place to make his point that all but the most blinded of fans find fanciful to say the least.
I believe many feel a true champion would have made his point to Marquez privately and dealt with the race on the track.
He immediately alienated himself and there is no grey in what he achieved, only black and white. In the end relying on his popularity to get him over the line and make no mistake as the whole stunt was a public warning to potential spoilers and it failed catastrophically.
I have been critical of Marquez style but I am very, very thankful he's a proper racer, at any track, at any time, just as they all should be.

Total votes: 156

David,

Beautifully written, artfully crafted, and perfectly succinct in the points you make.... An absolute inspiration good sir.

Total votes: 134

that we are lamenting the restrictions on racers' free speech, while at the same time Rossi is being vilified for speaking freely about Marquez.

Some of you need to get a grip. If you want free speech you better be able to handle it.

Total votes: 139

"Free speech" does not mean "speech without consequence". It's perfectly reasonable to argue for free speech while judging someone for what they say. In fact, it's a necessity. If someone is spouting nonesense it's not against free speech to point that out.

In my view Rossi should be fined at the minimum for bringing the sport in discredit and continuing to do so. Any other rider would be.

Total votes: 141

David, how can we complain about the impending lack of riders' ability to give an honest assessment of what's going on in the races, and yet denounce Rossi for stating in that press conference what he thinks to be the case? You can't pick and choose. Either the riders are free to comment on what they believe their circumstances to be, or they are not. This includes commenting on what they believe to be unfair behavior on the part of other racers as well as inappropriate actions on the part of teams and organizers. Rossi was entitled to make his accusations in the presser, Marquez was entitled to defend himself. Lorenzo, as repugnant as I found it, was entitled to make his opinions known as well. Trying to make the rules of self expression more particular is, as you say, using a hard case to make bad law. Riders should be free to say what they want, barring all-out profane verbal assault. It doesn't matter if we agree or not with the content of the statements. Censorship is censorship. Furthermore, barring riders from making honest comments about the riding of their competitors is a very dangerous game to play. It encourages bad behavior as riders know they will not be forced to answer for it, and with the new lax penalty point system, that will only get worse. Getting publicly called out for sketchy riding may now be one of the last safeguards that exist against it. If a rider knows that their riding is clean and fair, then what's the problem with getting called out? None. If they know they're in the right, then they can laugh off those accusations and sleep just fine at night. The public can read into the responses of the accused just as much as they can read into the accusations of the accuser, and make up their own mind. Or at least they could, if we didn't try to police everything riders said in the name of our own personal conceptions of what it means to be "grown up" - a highly subjective way of thinking at best.

Total votes: 152

there is a big difference between free speech and calling a fellow competitor out for something no one else even saw at the time and under dubious circumstances.
Liable and slander are still liable and slander unless evidence proves otherwise, the laptime chart from Phillip Island is somewhat discounted by the fact Marquez reduced Rossi's potential points loss by 5 when he passed Lorenzo. Not the actions of someone allegedly trying to affect a title outcome.

Total votes: 125

I am not a fan of Marc Marquez. In 2010, 2011 and 2012 I thought he was an incredibly talented rider who was absolutely filthy on track. Dangerous and malicious.

In 2013 Marquez opened my eyes to him, and I believed MotoGP had matured him and his behavior on track was much better, 2014 much the same..

But in 2015 I saw a return to the Marquez of old, and lost the respect I had built up for him in MotoGP. Was it wrong for Rossi to call him out and ride him to the edge of the circuit, yes, it probably was wrong... Do I think it was justified? YES.. It was about time someone put Marquez in his place in my opinion.

Both riders probably have more power in MotoGP than is healthy, but this brainwashing of the riders and the removal of personality will just turn MotoGP into Formula One. I for one, won't watch it if that happens.

This removal of the penalty point system worries me though, someone is going to get injured, and forgive me for thinking that Marquez will be the one dealing out the pain.

Total votes: 132

It's never justified when a rider breaches the rules so blatantly to 'teach someone a lesson'. You can't be concerned about riders being injured while at the same time support Rossi's actions at Sepang, it simply highlights your biases towards a particular rider.
I think DORNA's attempt is genuinely meant to remind them who is the boss but it too late and hopelessly flawed. All indications appear to show the organisers are finally going to promote racing and not individuals and pre-season tests are making my mouth water!

Total votes: 133

I'm still of the view it was the press and public who got it wrong. The press and public who flew off the handle and whose emotional reactions (or fear of) pressured RD into punishing what should have been left as a racing incident.

I asked the question on a previous story, if it's to be an offence to slow another rider, exactly when does that occur and not occur. If a rider goes fast into a corner in a manner that will mean they will be very slow at the apex or exit and block others - is that an offence? If a rider takes a line towards a corner that, without any further changes in line, will reduce and reduce the room another rider to their side will have, is that an offence? No cogent responses on how we're meant to distinguish between legitimate blocking manoeuvres and what is now meant to be non-legitimate in this new regime, beyond vague "you know it when you see it" which isn't re-assuring at all.

I think the questions about the line between safety and racing, and the rules governing those, should be left largely to the riders. Not the baying crowds who don't have literal skin and bone on the line.

I have to disagree, for once, with our estimable editor. Rossi and Marquez on the track gave us lap after lap of amazing racing - one of them was going to be disappointed, inevitably, but both played their part honourably and well.

The petulant children in Sepang were the onlookers, who turned amazing racing into a crying shame for GP racing.

Total votes: 133

Sepang wasn't a racing incident, there was nothing honourable about that behaviour.
In the end only one rider was penalised and even race direction admitted they tried their hardest to pin something on Marquez and they couldn't.
Their messing around and reluctance to hand out the final penalty was an insult to fans of the sport.

Total votes: 140

A few years back Rossi simply would have ridden away from a Marquez at Sepang and would not have looked back, as he ages he will go slower, and riders will compete with him. This year he may have problems with a Scott Redding or Vinales etc. As he ages he slips down the time sheets, as the young gain experience they move up the time sheets, what we are looking at the aging of Rossi and his clashes with the changing of the guard. All hail the king, the king is dead! (Well not quite, in fact he is still fabulously fast, but you get the idea).

As far as series organisers are concerned, I simply don't get it, why would they do this? Many years ago Stoner claimed that the organisers were scared of Rossi, and modified rules to accommodate him. It appears as if Stoner was correct - again. He said as part of his retirement, that one of his requirements prior to returning would be the removal of Carmelo...

Total votes: 122

What of Lorenzo's statement post Valencia:

"They knew what I had in play," Lorenzo said. "The fact they are Spaniards like me helped me.
"That helped me because for sure in another kind of race they would have tried to overtake which they didn't this time."

This quote, together with another comment from Seven4NineR in his post above:

"Phillip Island: How does an inferior rider with no world championships to his name, on an inferior bike, pass not one but two ex-world champions with 13 WC's between them, on a stretch of track shorter than my driveway if Marquez is NOT being obstructive?
If Marquez was really looking after his tyres why did he engage in trench warfare with Rossi and Iannone when he could have sat back, waited, and been no worse off? What he exhibited was NOT tyre saving behaviour despite his words to the contrary."

Surely that type of close quarter racing would be far harder on tyres than if he had just followed Lorenzo using his slipstream or following Rossi and Ianone.

What Lorenzo said was exactly what Rossi had suggested in Sepang.

Dorna could have nipped all this in the bud as they had been asked to do. Their behaviour then and since has instead been appalling but we shouldn't be surprised.

Total votes: 126

interesting point. Moreover, there is still so much misinformation going around after all this time, it's quite amazing. People tend to forget that on sunday evening, just after the PI race Rossi did go to see MM and tell him to stop playing around - Maio Meregalli confirmed this - and serious commentators in Italy were puzzled by the whole "tyre management " justification that MM gave the press soon after the race. Of course nobody thought it was done on purpose to interfere! some thought it was an engine problem or some other pbm that Honda did not want to disclose. Hence the repeating of MM justifying his erratic pace to anyone listening even when not asked. VR had no other option than denounce it. Now if most people think it's good sportsmanship that as a form of retaliation MM had the right to race as if there were no tomorrow, on the first laps of a very long race, using strange lines, overtaking more than aggressively and then slowing down and open a larger line 15 times in a couple of laps, well i think we have a very different vision on racing and sportsmanship. If we want to play it by the rule, then we could argue that Rossi was inside and in front! he had any right to chose any line he pleased.... up to Marquez to slow down to stay at the very edge of the line or whatever, because rossi was in front. MM decided to ram into VR and fell. If Rossi had not turned his head and lied about his intentions, saying that he had to slow down to cool the tyre and his engine was having problems and could not keep his usual line then what would have RD done? VR did not look for the contact, MM did, he turned his bike into VR's. and all the footage in the world is there to show it. You should all watch again Assen post race press conference : you would understand when it started in MMs mind. One journalist showed him with a question the discrepancies in his explanation of why he thought he was right and was the moral winner on the wrong assumption that he had tried that move during practice with nobody in sight: the more the journalist pushed the more MM kept on repeating the same stubborn answer, without answering the real question.
David, thank you for letting this long post, I understand that in this instance you've given us free speech.... I'm still very sensitive about this whole sad story. I strongly believe VR was robbed the chance of a fair fight. One final word : when VR says he wanted to fight with Lorenzo he never meant that others should just give him a free pass. He meant that MM should have raced his own race to achieve the best possible result. I know it's ridiculous to point this out, but i'm so fed up of reading so many ludicrous comments on this subject!

Total votes: 129

I am closing comments on this article. The discussion is no longer about the points system, but has rehashing old arguments on the Rossi vs Marquez clash at Sepang. Neither side is listening to the arguments of the other side, so there is no point in discussing it, all it does is bring up bad sentiment between fans. I do not believe there is any value in discussing the issue, everything that there is to be said has been said.

Thank you all for your contributions, just about all of which have been sensible and considered. 

Total votes: 138