MotoGP riders are up in arms after a decision was made to double the number of races next year without telling the athletes of the impending announcement.
Champion Fabio Quartararo slammed the move, which will see sprint races at every event from 2023 onwards.
The news broke on the eve of the Austrian Grand Prix, which will see short-form races run on Saturday as a precursor to Sunday’s feature.
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The current format sees riders practice on Friday, qualify on Saturday, and then race on Sunday.
Unlike the Formula 1 sprint races, the MotoGP sprint race on Saturday will not set the grid for the Sunday grand prix.
The races will be half as long and award roughly half as many points for those who finish first through to ninth.
A revised format will see two practice sessions take place on Friday. Another practice will precede qualifying on Saturday morning and sets the grid for both races.
Sprint races will happen on Saturday afternoon while Sunday grand prix scheduling remains unaffected.
“We have been looking at other sports for different possibilities and we are trying to offer a better show, especially for the fans, the promoters, and television,” said MotoGP promoter Carmelo Ezpeleta of Dorna Sports.
“It’s very important to us to offer a new schedule which will, in our opinion, improve our presence in all the grands prix.
“This has been something discussed obviously with the FIM, with the manufacturers, and with the teams, and then yesterday, I talked with the riders in the Safety Commission.
“Even if the Safety Commission is for safety, since the beginning, I have been very proud to talk with the riders about different things.
“Obviously the matter to inform the riders is something that must be made by their individual teams, but yesterday we had some discussions and I’m very happy to hear the president of the FIM announce what we want to announce today.”
The move hasn’t been met with positivity across the board, however.
While Formula 1 sprint races only take place at select events, MotoGP will have its own sprint races at every race weekend.
Yamaha’s Quartararo said the workload will be too taxing.
“I think it’s totally stupid,” Quartararo said when asked about the sprint race concept.
“I’m not the one who makes decisions about race formats, but I think we’re entering a totally stupid format.
“If we do it from time to time, like in Formula 1, I think it can be interesting, but every Saturday… honestly, there are circuits where you are physically exhausted, like Assen, Mugello.
“When we finish the race, we are exhausted. Honestly, I don’t think it’s right to do this without asking the riders’ opinions. Or at least I wasn’t asked.”
The means by which the format change was announced also caught riders off guard.
It was not the MotoGP promoter, but rather the media that informed most riders of the impending announcement.
That has prompted calls for a riders’ union to be established.
“Still the riders don’t know,” said Honda’s Pol Espargaro at the Austrian Grand Prix on Friday.
“I thought that they would tell us, and the safety commission is where they normally tell us these kinds of things.
“It would have been nice to hear this before we realised by the press that we’re going to race twice next year. We are the riders and it would not be bad if they had asked us beforehand.
“The idea is that we take double risk by doing the same job for the same money. We race twice a weekend, and racing means more risk.”
Gresini’s Fabio Di Giannantonio labelled the additional race “big bullshit” to what is an already physically exhausting weekend of racing.
“We are the guys who are suffering arm pump, injuries, and a lot of other things – but we cannot decide anything,” the Italian bemoaned.
“I think it is the right moment to build an association of riders, so that when there are these decisions, the suggestions of the riders can be listened to, as well as the teams and Dorna, to make everything good.”
MotoGP continues on Sunday with the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring.
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