When you ask an expert about the difference between the world of motorbikes and that of cars, one of the most popular answers is 'a zero at the end of the number'. Perhaps seeing it this way might seem simplistic, but it is undeniable that a lot more money revolves around the world of four wheels and this obviously reflects both on the market and on the sport.
Formula 1 is the benchmark for four-wheeled motorsport, while MotoGP is for two-wheeled motorsport, but while the former is enjoying a moment of great popularity and success, the latter is suffering from a sort of inferiority complex which then leads those who make certain decisions to exaggerate to stem it.
An example? Obviously the introduction of the Sprint Race on Saturdays this season. A new feature that in the end was very popular with the public, even if it naturally took away the value of qualifying, at least from the point of view of media attention. Because in reality from a sporting point of view, qualifying today is the truly decisive moment of the race weekend because the pole position is valid for two races and not just one and round after round we have had more and more confirmation of how true this statement is, especially with modern MotoGP bikes, which don't make overtaking easy. Ask Enea Bastianini: in Qatar he set the fastest lap on the last lap and finished 8th after losing a lot of time at the start, starting 14th on Sunday.
Sprint race supporters naturally point out that this format already exists in SBK, where there are as many as three races in a weekend, two of which on Sunday. But there is a huge difference between MotoGP and SBK and it is the calendar of the two categories. The almost feverish succession of races in MotoGP creates a huge problem for an injured rider, who is often forced to miss multiple rounds. In SBK the calendar is spread over a much longer period, there are almost no back-to-backs and an eventual injury is often recovered by a rider between one round and another. In 2023 in MotoGP only once was the grid completed by all the starting riders, namely that of Portimao and only for the Sprint, because then the trouble started.
Troubles that do not only concern the riders, because such a busy calendar of events also forces all the mechanics, engineers, those who drive the trucks, those who look after hospitality, in short everyone and not just those who then make all this to happen work on the track riding the motorbike. We must then underline that while at least for the majority of MotoGP teams travel can be defined as 'comfortable', for the entire line-up of small and medium-sized teams that populate the Moto2 and Moto3 categories the matter changes drastically. The costs are very high and you have to save somewhere.
An excess which, from what we learned in Sepang, led some technicians to approach the Aruba staff, present in Malaysia alongside Bautista, to try to cross the aisle from one paddock to another, perhaps in search of a more human working dimension. All these problems that Formula 1 doesn't have for various reasons, which are all simply linked to money. In that paddock each driver does not have just one team, but there are two real teams of mechanics who alternate and the same goes for most of the roles connected to the activity on and off the track.
MotoGP and Formula 1: out with the reserves!
If we then look at the sporting side, we must remember that every Formula 1 team has a reserve driver, ready to take over from the starter. In MotoGP there are only the test-riders of the manufacturers, who often have far more bikes than riders ready to jump on the saddle. A problem that is often solved in Moto2 and Moto3 with unlikely wild cards of riders ready to pay for a moment of glory, but which in MotoGP presents much greater difficulties.
We have said it several times and we repeat it at the risk of sounding boring: today's MotoGP bikes are no longer 'normal' bikes. They are not ridden by instinct, pure talent is not enough to push them to the limit, although that is obviously fundamental to making a difference. One solution would be the introduction of a third rider for each team, but the essence of the question is always the same: who pays? It should also be remembered that while in Formula 1 there are highly advanced simulators that allow riders to train and experience the sensations of the track in an absolutely realistic way, as far as motorcycle racing is concerned the matter is rather different. There is nothing even remotely capable of training the rider for the sensations of a MotoGP bike and even today’s sports bikes have so little to do with riding prototypes that they are not the ideal means of training, even though they can run in hellish times as demonstrated for example by Bagnaia at Misano with the Panigale V4. Fabio Quartararo said it bluntly, he preferred not to train too much with the R1 because he didn't consider it preparatory training for the commitment required by the M1.
Returning to the beginning of the article, in short, there is a problem to face in MotoGP, namely the impossibility of going on for a long time on a path that leads this paddock to want to resemble Formula 1 more and more. The costs for everyone have become enormous, the margins of error for the riders are increasingly reduced and in general there should be a rethink about things to avoid having the starting grid made up of the starting riders only once again in 2024. We already know that nothing will change for 2024, that there will be 44 races between Sprints and Grands Prix and that obviously the risk for many riders of missing several rounds will be very high, exactly as happened this season. Let's hope that in the future they will try to avoid increasing the stress load too much on all the people involved in this paddock which will never be like that of Formula 1. Luckily, we hasten to add.