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Stefano Domenicali: free practice in F1 at risk. Will it also be the same for MotoGP?

"Free practice is only interesting for the fans". That's not true: let us be clear: in the era of excessive onanistic TV, it is important to give the Pay TV club a show that is easily understandable even to the uninformed. Wrestling, with all due respect, not boxing. But fiction doesn't necessarily work better than reality

Stefano Domenicali: free practice in F1 at risk. Will it also be the same for MotoGP?


Last week, speaking in Portimao with my friend and colleague Guido Meda who was taking the mickey out of me, as the young say, about my supposed attachment to the past, I wondered if I'm wrong in regretting a bit (a bit, but not all), the motorcycle racing of the past. Even that of the recent past.

I then continued the chat with Antonio Boselli, who 'explained' to me that MotoGP must attract young people, while I put forward the idea that in the meantime it would be important not to lose the old fans. Something that is happening.

Moreover, I also have about fifteen years behind me in which, following motorcycle racing and car racing for Corriere dello Sport, I also used to write about Formula 1 until that great editor and friend called Italo Cucci asked me to devote myself only to four wheels; but I replied that, no, I preferred to stay with two wheels. Why? Passion. F1 was already being bastardized at the time, people looked at you badly when you entered the pits and talking to Schumacher with the press secretary's tape recorder under your nose was starting to annoy me. It deprived the answers of authenticity.

I don't think I made the wrong decision. F1 has increasingly moved away from my way of seeing motorsport. For a certain period it also declined due to a chronic lack of entertainment (I mean overtaking and battles), then thanks to a media revolution with Liberty Media and Stefano Domenicali in command by dint of Netflix ads for Drive to Survive, it took off again. But to me it looks like one of those frothy, air-filled ice creams that when you taste a spoonful of it, nothing is left in your mouth.

You want to compare it, Guido, with the fact that yours truly, at Francorchamps, asked Maurizio Nardon what Gerhard Berger had asked him when he framed the back of the Ferrari box with his mirror and the answer was: "the girl's phone near the tyres"! And it wasn't a joke!

No, now not only are you no longer allowed in the garage, but it seems that the future of F1 is increasingly sustainable and with this in mind it has in fact been decided together with the FIA, the teams and Pirelli, to abolish tyre-warmers from 2024 , to reduce energy waste in favour of the environment. You might say: but at the end of the day what’s the big deal? It could take the drivers two or three laps, after a pit stop, to warm up the tyres and find their rhythm again…

Sure, and in the meantime, manufacturers continue to send six diesel trailer trucks all over Europe to assemble the pharaonic Hospitality units without which the paddock would appear poor.

Let's be clear about this: you can do without the tyre-warmers: Freddie Spencer took off like a rocket and pulled out a lead of a hundred meters over everyone else even without them, in his golden days. I only wish they didn't try and mask the decision as an ecological breakthrough.

A bit like Formula E: I’ve only ever seen one race and what stayed in my mind was the music to cover the silence of the single-seaters and the noise of the diesel generators to charge the batteries. I’m up for everything, progress goes on, the Ducati V21L intrigues me, we will arrive at compact and heavy batteries and MotoGP bikes will look like Star Wars pods in the year 2100. We will even have car parks in Rome with columns in every place! Well, this maybe in 2300…

The important thing, however, is that you don't lose the passion, which is what makes us want, after one Grand Prix, to watch the next one. But without fooling ourselves. Without trying to fob commercial optics off as ecological choices. Perfectly legal, of course. That is, said between friends: they are taking the piss.

And here I come to the point. At Portimao I did not meet Stefano Domenicali whom I consider little more than an acquaintance, even if certainly not a close friend.

His declarations last Sunday to the microphones of Sky during the commentary of the MotoGP World Championship caused a bit of controversy. The Formula 1 number one has floated the idea of reducing, if not scrapping, free practice altogether: “I am a supporter of the cancellation of free practice sessions, which are of great use to the engineers but that the public doesn't like. I will present a proposal in the next meetings: in my opinion, every time the cars go on the track, they must be able to fight for something important, worthwhile".

Given the way the wind is currently blowing, I suddenly understood who inspired Dorna seeing as the Portimao GP was compressed by the new format that pushes the riders to put their lives on the line as early as Friday, to ensure passage to Q2, to then find themselves pushing like crazy between Q1 and Q2 for qualifying and then in the Sprint race on Saturday and finally to kill each other on Sunday, all fuelled by a weekend on the rev limiter.

Dear Stefano, you know better than me: this is not a Grand Prix. A Grand Prix is also preparation and anticipation of the event. If we remove even the little free practice that is left, in addition to increasing the danger, it all boils down to a quickie in which we pass off pleasure with the orgasm. With the excuse, and this is even worse, that this is what matters. Not savouring the moment, building and waiting for the Grand Prix. But eating it alive.

"Free practice is only interesting for the fans". It's not true Stefano, let's be clear about this: in the age of the excess of onanistic TV, you are only interested in giving the Pay TV club a show that is easily understandable even to the uninformed. Wrestling, with all due respect, not boxing. Thinking that fiction works better than reality.


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