Last week, our friend Salvo Pennisi, head of Pirelli development, commented on social media.
"Since 2018, the airbag has been mandatory in MotoGP. How is it possible for a rider to be allowed to enter the track with an empty airbag, aware of this, among other things? There is a lot of talk about safety but what is not clear is that there are obviously no rules or autonomous common sense protocols for riders and teams who monitor such an elementary thing and controls at pit lane exit by marshals with an absolute ban on entering the track for those who do not have their full charge lights on. I have taken part in two GS Trophies and in a selective one (Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand) and every morning at the start of each stage an official meticulously checked (more than one hundred competitors) that everyone was wearing each protective element correctly (chest / knee / elbow / neck collar) as well as helmet, gloves and approved boots ".
Salvo, who for work is obviously very attentive to the issue of safety, was referring to the episode involving Enea Bastianini at Mugello. We then learned (and verified because of Enea's collision with Zarco) thanks to Alpinestars that Bastianini’s leathers had another three hours of autonomy, but the point raised by Pennisi is correct: who checks the state of the rider’s gear at the start. From the result it is clear that the answer is ... no one.
Yet we remember that already in the ‘80s at the technical checks the mechanics, in addition to the motorcycles, had to show up with the riders' clothing, even if at the time someone used to turn a blind eye, as Gianni Rolando recalls, on the condition of the leathers. In most cases, the leathers of privateers, in fact, had seen better times…
Today, however, the impression is that we focus more on the mechanics’ uniforms in the pits, which has little to do with safety, except for a helmet worn in the pit lane, just for image reasons.
The topic has come up again due to the ‘case’ of Quartararo, and his leathers that opened at 300 km/h. Had the zipper broken it would have been a coincidence, but it didn't break. So it’s either one of two things: either Fabio hadn't closed it properly by lowering the zip fastener, or he opened it trying to fix the chest protector, which was then lost.
It had never happened before, but that's not the point. Motorsport is an activity that is based on certain rules and some of them have no interpretations. An open leather race suit is equivalent to a loose exhaust or fairing. It is a dangerous situation and in these cases the black flag with an orange circle accompanied by the rider’s number is automatically displayed.
Safety rules should not be interpreted, but applied
In cases like these one cannot and must not reason: but nothing happens anyway, i.e. the regulation must not be interpreted but, on the contrary, only applied. Slavishly.
This is because the rules are clear, and just as disqualification - or in any case the envisaged sanctions that are applied - in the case of a car or bike that has an illegal weight, dimensions or displacement, it is automatic to display the flag.
Unfortunately, the Race Direction has been totally inadequate for some time now: from Mike Webb to the panel of Stewards led by Freddie Spencer, Bill Cumbow and a local representative, everyone there seems to be involved in … doing nothing.
The additional three seconds penalty quite rightly angered Quartararo
Because if the black and orange flag was the correct answer, the additional three seconds of penalty inflicted on Quartararo mean nothing where the answer had to be that of safety. Whatever it takes.
In fact, there is no doubt that if Fabio had had to come off line, slow down, close his leathers, he would have lost well over three seconds. And in any case, the purpose would have been to make him race in full safety. There is no substitute sanction for safety. But this farcical Race Direction does not know. They just don't get it. And I do not want to take any further because the other possibilities would be even more offensive.
So it’s either one thing or another: either they do not know the regulations, or they are not free to apply them on the fly, as would have been correct in this case.
The world championship must equip itself with an adequate Race Direction
However, there was much more than Quartararo's leathers in the Barcelona GP: the Moto3 race, as it has been for some time now, was not a race but a burly brawl...
They are passed off as exciting races in which there is a bit of a scrum and a constant search for the best position to get or not get a tow. And all this happens while trajectory changes and rider misconduct are the order of the day...
Shall we talk about the way the Moto3 GPs are handled?
The lack of intervention by the Stewards over the accident caused by Jeremy Alcoba who at the end of the penultimate lap, while he was in the lead, dramatically slowed down causing a group of 15 riders to bunch up, something that caused the crash of Dennis Foggia, Xavier Artigas and Ayumu Sasaki, passed by in total silence. This simply mustn’t happen.
As Luca Cadalora rightly pointed out in our #BarSport on Sunday evening, the Moto3 riders are the MotoGP riders of tomorrow and if they grow up without rules and regulations they will become difficult riders to manage.
It should be remembered for the umpteenth time: motorcycling is a sport of courage, but courage does not equate to wickedness and failure to respect the rules. Quite the opposite. Courage is the search for the limit, knowing how far you can go and stopping there. Everything else is begging for demagogy…