Today the FIM Stewards Panel will be working overtime. Finally! … I hear you say. The controlling body of the Federation, made up of Bill Cumbow, Freddie Spencer and Ralph Bornhorst, has in fact summoned several riders to discuss eventual responsibility for what happened last weekend at the Red Bull Ring.
There are three hearings scheduled today, starting with the one that will see Zarco and Morbidelli as protagonists after the accident that has monopolized attention for days. However, Pol Espargarò and Oliveira, who crashed in the race, will also be called in, as well as Danilo Petrucci and Aleix Espargarò, protagonists of a dispute in qualifying.
There is no doubt that there is a need to intervene on the riders’ behaviour on and off the track because the situation has gotten out of hand. It all started with the quarrel between Danilo and Aleix: the Italian felt hindered by the Spaniard, he waited for him in the pit lane to express his disappointment with an eloquent gesture, then the quarrel continued on Twitter, with (more or less veiled ) mutual insults.
Even between Miguel and Pol, there were sparks and the Portuguese rider had bluntly accused his team-mate of responsibility for the accident.
The tip of the iceberg, however, was the contact between Zarco and Morbidelli. In the heat of the moment, some harsh words flew about: "a semi-killer" Franco said, "he did it on purpose" accused Valentino. Certain statements were also the results of the narrow escape and, as the days went by, the positions of the two riders cooled down, while both continued to believe that Johann must pay for his, albeit unintentional, mistake.
The ball, therefore, now passes to the Stewards who will have to bring the situation back to normal. On what the riders actually risk there are all sorts of valid ideas because there is no 'penalty list' but everything is left to the discretion of the stewards, who have maximum freedom.
Logically, the priority will be to restore some order among the riders, without adding fuel to the fire, also because they waited too long before trying to put out the fire. Especially if you think that the Stewards will also decide on facts (the Petrucci-Espargarò diatribe) dating back to Saturday. Perhaps it would have been better to draw a line on everything that happened already on Sunday evening, instead of letting the controversy continue to rage on for days. In this case, it is better late than never.
But it is not only the riders who are under fire, but also the Red Bull Ring and, for this, we will have to wait. Cal Crutchlow pointed out last week that "all the walls on the side of the track should be moved, I don't think money is the problem".
In the post-race press conference, Dovizioso, Mir and Miller had also pointed the finger at a point considered dangerous, Turn 3, that of the accident between Zarco and Morbidelli. The pilots agreed that the wall on the left is too close.
It is no secret that the layout of the track was designed more for Formula 1 than for motorcycles, with many hairpin bends at the bottom of straights where speeds of over 300 km/h are reached. These types of curves are potentially dangerous for motorcycles, which can, in the event of a crash, easily cut across the track.
Even more, the paved run-off areas (another thing that cars like) are not the best solution for motorcycle racers, who prefer gravel to stop them and their bikes from sliding. Then, it becomes even worse in case of rain because the escape routes turn into slides.
In wet weather, the conformation of the Red Bull Ring also has its flaws. Crutchlow had noticed the numerous puddles that form on the track, with the water reaching "ankle height". In the past, in case of rain, there were many crashes.
On this, however, not much can be done in one week. The riders will have to put a brave face on this situation and hope their warnings are heeded in the future.
Tomorrow the Styrian GP will get underway and under watch will (also) be the Red Bull Ring.