Around a hundred years ago, the world races was progressing at a rate that had never been seen before. This was made possible by the invention of the internal combustion engine, the telephone, electricity, and a number of other new technologies that supercharged people’s lifestyles.
The Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova noted at the time that the new methods of living (and of dancing, from sashaying to the waltz to gyrating to the fast, syncopated beats of ragtime music) was “The product of the present-day craving for excitement, like the telephone, car, photography, and cinemas.” As a species, we are losing the ability to perceive delicate feelings. We need excitement.”
A century later, the internet is finally here, churning away 24/7/365, inundating us with too much information, changing the way our minds work, and making us yearning for more and more vicarious pleasures. Supporters of motor sports, much like fans of any other sport, demand more excitement as a result of the proliferation of social media platforms such as TikTok, Twitter, and others. To put it another way:
It’s as simple as that: the goal is to get more clicks and income.
As a result, touring cars, World Superbike, Formula 1, and now MotoGP are all working to increase the amount of excitement that can be delivered in a single weekend.
Given that all of the other major racing championships had already embarked down the path of having multiple races, it seemed very much inevitable that MotoGP would do the same thing at some point.
It is anticipated that more individuals will participate in races on Saturdays, as well as more people will switch on their televisions and look through their phones on Saturdays. Simply said, getting more clicks and making more money is the goal.
When we arrived at Red Bull Ring the previous week and heard all of the rumors, I did not respond with a great deal of enthusiasm to the concept of having MotoGP sprint races on Saturday afternoons. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the history of grand prix racing because none of us would be here without those who came before us. However, it saddens me to see that we are disregarding three quarters of a century’s worth of custom, which involves riders and teams competing to win Sunday’s Grand Prix, which is the BIG PRIZE.
In an instant, all of the mystery and nuance that had been slowly building up over the course of the previous two days of pit-lane and racetrack strategies had vanished. The pace of life sped up during the weekend, and perhaps it became less sophisticated. Trading purity for financial gain. But this is modern sport—all it’s about the money, nothing more and nothing less.
Some in the paddock suggested that Dorna might do better by restricting the latest technology that are taking the excitement out of MotoGP racing: too much downforce aero, shapeshifters, and so on. However, Dorna executives know that this would entail years of trench battle with the manufacturers.
The rumor mill told us on Friday that the sprint race would also count as a grand prix – that’s at least 42 GPs every season! So we might as well toss out the history books and forget about Giacomo Agostini, Mike Hailwood, and everyone else whose accomplishments would be absorbed by 21st century statistics. Later, we learned that sprint races would not be classified as grands prix. Big sense of relief.
I was also concerned about the weekend structure, namely how riders would handle the strains of Saturday morning’s FP3 practice, which is practically Q0.5, followed by perhaps two qualifying sessions and a race.
MotoGP is already more intense and hectic than it has ever been. You only need to compare crash statistics from the last decade to appreciate the extra dangers riders now assume, because every thousandth of a second counts. In 2010, there were 183 collisions in the premier class across 18 races. Last year, there were 278 collisions in 18 races.
Dani Pedrosa, a KTM test rider, competed in one of the MotoGP races at Red Bull Ring in August and was taken aback by the experience. Although the weekend structure was the same as when he retired at the end of 2018, the Spaniard said that everything had changed. Lap times were tighter than ever, overtaking was more difficult than ever, and everything counted more than ever, thus the tension, stress, and anxiety were through the roof.
So how would riders handle competing in FP3, Q1 and Q2, and finally a points-scoring race all within a few hours of one other, with the major race the next day? It seemed like too much to ask of riders, the majority of whom spent the entire season injured – either from new injuries or from previous ones.
“Every qualifying lap is like losing one of your lives,” Pol Espargaró commented a while back.
Afterward, we were given the new weekend format, and things didn’t seem to be going as badly as they had been, despite the fact that manufacturers, teams, and riders will have less set-up time. This means that there will be less time to try out new ideas and less time to develop new technology, both of which are still a significant part of the reason why manufacturers are here.
The free practice sessions held on Friday will be extended beginning the next season, and they will be the only ones to determine the qualifying order (i.e., who advances directly to Q2 and who must first compete in Q1) for the following race.
Riders will be able to concentrate on the bike and on themselves during the new race-pace session that will replace the current FP4 outing on Saturday, which currently helps decide the line-up for Q1 and Q2. This session will replace the current FP3 session, which currently helps decide the line-up for Q1 and Q2, and it will replace the current FP3 session, which currently helps decide the line-up for Q1 and Q2. The main disadvantage is that FP3 will take place in the morning, which means that the weather and track conditions won’t be directly equivalent to those that will exist during the race, and there will also be less time for setting up.
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