Petronas Yamaha rider Franco Morbidelli wants MotoGP to impose a time limit on lap deletions, arguing that the stewards’ late decision to strip him of a key practice lap created a “safety issue.”
Morbidelli had initially booked a direct place in Q2 as a result of third practice, despite having had what was the fastest lap of the session deleted for a track limits offence.
However, his second-fastest lap in FP3 – recorded on his penultimate lap, a fair few minutes before the session ended – also featured a track limits violation, which had been spotted right away by commentators on the TV feed.
Though the lap was not deleted then, it’s believed it was brought to the stewards’ attention by Ducati, who stood to benefit from Morbidelli losing the lap as it would’ve meant Jack Miller got directly into Q2 instead of Morbidelli.
And that indeed transpired, with Morbidelli telling television crews after qualifying that he’d found outright in the lead-up to FP4 that he would have to contest the first segment.
Though Morbidelli eased through Q1 and qualified a superb second, he made it clear it had been a problematic situation, as his Petronas Yamaha team had to scramble to get tyres up to temperature for an extra session.
“Yeah, I think there’s still room to improve,” Morbidelli said when asked by The Race about MotoGP’s policing of track limits. “It was right to cancel my laptime, both of my laptimes, this morning. Maybe it wasn’t right, the timing, because I got informed really late.
“And we didn’t really have the tyres. So we needed to go get the tyres, put them in the tyre rack and warm them up and hope that they would’ve warmed up enough for Q2, if I reached Q2.
“We faced a safety issue this afternoon. Luckily the temperature was high enough to ride medium and soft, to have more choices and more tyres to use. If the temperature would’ve been low, to just allow us to ride one tyre, one tyre spec [the soft], then we would’ve been in big trouble, in safety trouble.
“Luckily it wasn’t the case. I think we’re going to ask the steward panel to make a rule at least to give the information [about lap deletions] within a certain time, because after a certain time it gets dangerous because you don’t have the tyres.”
Morbidelli’s deleted lap wasn’t the only track limits-related point of contention on Saturday, with KTM rider Miguel Oliveira incensed by a cancellation that took him from 13th to 16th on the grid.
And while MotoGP’s stewarding process is shrouded in mystery, Morbidelli’s key lap was written off seemingly thanks to a visual review and Oliveira lost his due to a sensor being triggered out of Turn 10.
“Of course you always stay in the doubt because they have no images about this,” said Oliveira of losing his “very good lap”.
“I am not willing to waste more energy in this. I disagree with this kind of sensors, coming from track limits but it is what we have.
“The system goes in the right direction to make it more reliable. The thing is, our tyres are quite wide so you can trigger the sensor without being out of track limits. Of course, you are very close to the green but you are still on the kerb.
“The best example is [Maverick] Vinales [last weekend at Portimao] because we can even see it in slow motion. When the tyre deflects quite a lot, it increases width a little bit so it is normal you can trigger the sensor without being out of track limits.
“We are out here riding on the limit and yeah, it is not great to have a lap, especially a good one, cancelled. It makes a difference because it is three positions on the grid so a full row. It will be something to be discussed more in the future.”
Vinales, whose lost lap in Portimao was the difference between starting on pole and starting 12th, admitted he was still “a little bit sore” about the decision, given that the video footage offered no conclusive proof that he’d gone off the track.
But it was also said in the aftermath of the decision that the automatic sensors at that point of the track may have been inactive anyway.