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Opinion

Why MotoGP races have become so chaotic

OPINION: MotoGP's competitive landscape has changed rapidly over the last few years, with most of the grid on machinery capable of getting to the podium. This has seen an increase in the number of collisions taking place from race to race. With the eternal battle of entertaining racing versus safe racing, is MotoGP striking the right balance?

Alex Marquez, Gresini Racing, Luca Marini, VR46 Racing Team, crash

Photo by: Marc Fleury

The extremely close field that currently exists in MotoGP, and the difficulty to overtake generated by the aerodynamics of the current bikes, explain the increase in aggression at the start of the races and, with that, the higher number of accidents.

Properly interpreted, statistics are capable of reflecting the reality as if they were a mirror. This principle is also applicable to MotoGP, which has crowned four different champions from four different manufacturers in the last four years. Most of the riders, who are already prone to cliches, have been repeating for some time now that the equal playing field in the series is unprecedented.

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Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa were not labelled the 'Fantastic Four' for no reason, but as a result of the gulf that separated them from the rest of their rivals.

When double world champion Stoner decided to retire at the end of 2012, Marc Marquez appeared to replace him on that four-seat pedestal. In the three and a half years between the first race in 2013 and the seventh in 2016, Rossi, Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Marquez shared the 61 victories that were at stake. That 'status quo' that Jack Miller broke at Assen, when he became the first satellite rider to win a grand prix in 10 years, contrasts sharply with the instability that has settled in the championship ever since.

That feeling is not only based on the comments from the riders, but also backed up by the numbers. If we take the 57 grands prix that have been held since the beginning of 2020, which is a little less than the three and a half years mentioned above, we get a total of 16 different winners. Particularly diverse were the 2018 and 2020 seasons, which combined up to nine winners each.

This unpredictability is the result of contemporary technical and sporting regulations, which have caused the field to close up to extremes that were unthinkable not so long ago. Whether this is good or not is absolutely subjective, so much so that in the paddock there are favourable opinions, but also unfavourable ones.

But what is unquestionable is that this 'democratisation' has a great impact on the dynamics of the races and on one of the current hot topics: the amount of accidents happening on the first laps, both on Saturdays in the sprint races, and on Sundays.

Early laps have become highly charged, with collisions taking place in three of the first five sprints in 2023 and all of the grands prix

Early laps have become highly charged, with collisions taking place in three of the first five sprints in 2023 and all of the grands prix

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Since the debut of the new weekend format, many riders have complained about the general increase in aggressiveness at the start of the races.

According to sources consulted by Autosport, this phenomenon is mainly due to two specific aspects. The first is the possibility of reaching the podium or even winning for every rider. The second one is the nature of the races, in the form of a train or single file, as a consequence of the difficulty the current bikes encounter to overtake due to their own characteristics. This phenomenon is reminiscent of what happened in Formula 1 before the introduction of the DRS as a variable to encourage overtaking.

World champion Francesco Bagnaia explains in a very clear way the impact that the possibility of being in a position to win has on some riders, when in other circumstances it would be almost impossible for them.

"Most of the crashes happen at the beginning, because there is too much agitation, which leads to riders rushing," he said. "With the situation that we have today, all the bikes are capable of winning. The large number of aerodynamic elements that have been introduced recently, from the fins to the ride-height adjusters and the scoops, cause the formation of these trains that result in overheating and increased pressure on the front tyre. When that happens, it's over.

"What if we used the ride height device like Formula 1 does with DRS? That is, it could only be used in certain circumstances. That would bring calmness and would add to the spectacle, because it would generate a temporary imbalance of power" Fabio Di Giannantonio

"We've been trying to win on the first lap for two years now. A rider who is behind, and who certainly doesn't have the potential to win, tries to overtake six riders on one lap because he knows that's the best chance he'll have to make up positions. That's not how it works. We all go to the limit, and going over it is a mistake that has consequences."

Despite having a completely different profile, both in terms of experience and track record, Fabio Di Giannantonio has the same view of the situation as his fellow Ducati stablemate, which validates the thesis they share.

"Overtaking with these bikes has become very difficult. That's why we try to gain as many places as possible at the start, because if you can get to the front of the field, you've done most of the work," agrees the Gresini rider, who digs a little deeper. "You have to be more aggressive at the start and take more risks, because you don't see races anymore where you start eighth, and little by little you go forward. Now, if you're eighth on the fifth lap, it's normal that you can't move too far from there," he adds.

The nature of modern MotoGP bikes have made overtaking much harder

The nature of modern MotoGP bikes have made overtaking much harder

Photo by: Marc Fleury

This situation and its limitations has been created by the regulations, so it can only be straightened out by the Grand Prix Commission, the body that has the power to do so, should a consensus be reached. The current technical regulations expire in 2026, and the Manufacturers' Association (MSMA) has long been debating what changes will be introduced.

On the table are the elimination of ride height devices and the restriction of aerodynamic elements as two of the main points of discussion. A partial ban on ride height devices was brought in for 2023, with front ride height adjustment outlawed outside of race starts. This was a move that was welcomed by all but one manufacturer - Ducati, who in turn has been opposed to any talk of restrictions on aerodynamics having properly championed this area of development since 2015.

The problem is that 2027 is a long way off, and there are already those who propose tweaks that could encourage overtaking beyond what happens on the first lap.

"What if we used the ride height device like Formula 1 does with DRS? That is, it could only be used in certain circumstances. That would bring calmness and would add to the spectacle, because it would generate a temporary imbalance of power," reasoned Di Giannantonio, as accurate in his analysis as those who intend to tweak the regulations - which have become a real Pandora's box - should be.

Perhaps MotoGP needs to use its ride height devices like F1 uses DRS, according to Di Giannantonio

Perhaps MotoGP needs to use its ride height devices like F1 uses DRS, according to Di Giannantonio

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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