MotoGP will make its revolution in 2023 with the introduction of sprint races that will completely change the face of weekends. In order to maintain an equivalent process, free practice will be shortened and qualifying, which determines the starting grid for the sprint and the main race, which will be held on Sunday, will be postponed to Saturday morning.
When the sprint races were announced, several riders expressed concerns between a very compact program and reduced testing. At the Aragón GP, MotoGP detailed the 2023 Grand Prix programme, including a fan show scheduled for Sunday morning, and riders were generally convinced, even those who had expressed the strongest reservations, such as Aleix Espargaró.
“I wasn’t very excited when the sprint race was announced, but now the program has completely changed: we’ll see a lot of new activities, Saturday will be the most challenging day ever, so we’ll wait and see”said the Aprilia driver. “If I don’t like this show, I’ll say right away, starting Saturday in Portimão: ‘That sucks!’ [rires] But I’m curious, I want to try new things. The world is changing, you need to renew yourself, try new things, so let’s try and we’ll see.”
Jack Miller, Brad Binder and Aleix Espargaro
Johann Zarco confirms a certain calm among the drivers. “We didn’t quite agree, but we have to get used to it and we can all get used to it”guessed the Frenchman. “It’s human nature to complain and then conform.”
Zarco particularly appreciates having only the two Friday sessions to aim for a top 10, which is equivalent to going straight into Q2, allowing to be fixed faster and not having a crucial session to start on Saturday since the “new” EL3 is equivalent to the current EL4: “I’m glad that only Friday is in Q2, because experience can help you to be fast immediately with a good bike.”
“On the weekend it can help a bit to be ready on Friday and then not be stressed on Saturday morning when it’s sometimes colder. On Saturday morning we are faster and faster, but with the cold it’s scary sometimes, so it will be better to just drive the qualifying times on Friday.”
Immediately seduced by the concept of sprint races, Marc Márquez assesses the new program “Perfect” However, some fear that the duration of the warm-up session will be cut in half with only ten minutes on the track. “For me, warming up is important”said Enea Bastianini at a press conference at the Aragon GP. “Maybe 20 minutes like now is too much, ten… For me 15 minutes would be best but having ten minutes for three or four laps is good to prepare for the race and to understand something on the bike. “
Jack Miller is more composed. “Warm up or not, we’re getting into the race that has been in preparation since Saturday”the Australian recalled. “I think it’s good to just have a couple of laps to take a look and wake up the body a bit. Should be fine.”
This adjustment period should favor those who have a bike and tried and tested settings, so changing manufacturers could present greater problems for riders. “I’m sorry for you! [rires]” enjoy Maverick Viñales, who is guaranteed to be driving an Aprilia until 2024. “It happened to me when I changed bikes in the middle of the season, it was tough, very tough.
Agostini fears team fatigue
This new format fascinates Giacomo Agostini. The eight-time 500cc champion himself was used to multiplying races over the weekends by entering multiple categories, but each of his bikes was prepared by a team of different mechanics. With the new MotoGP format, the difficulty will come from the fact that the same structure will have to host multiple races on the same weekend all in one increasingly tight schedule.
“In my day I did several races in 350cc and 500cc but it was just the rider who did several races.”Agostini told the Dutch edition of Motorsport.com. “A rider could still race in Moto2 and MotoGP now, we could race in two categories. […] Now it’s the same bike that needs to be prepared for Saturday’s and Sunday’s races.”
“There were a maximum of 24 races a year [à mon époque] now it’s going to be 42, which isn’t bad”he added. “Not only for the drivers, but also for the teams and the mechanics. We have to see what it brings, maybe it will be good.”
As for the show, the Italian has trouble projecting himself and imagining the impact of these changes: “I do not know. It’s maybe like Formula 1, but we have three categories, with Moto3 and Moto2, that’s a lot.”
With Lena Buffa and Charlotte Guerdoux
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