It would be nice to sit down at the end of a MotoGP weekend and just write about the race. But it seems increasingly, the first thing a journalist has to do after a MotoGP race is go back and read the FIM Grand Prix World Championship Regulations, also known as the yellow book, back when books were a thing, and rules didn't change every couple of weeks rendering paper books unusable. We have had a stream of rule infractions, both large and small, infringements of rules which few new existed, and the application of penalties which have inevitably needed clarification.
The need to go back and reread the rulebook has sometimes been due to inexperience in particular situations – for example, Fabio Quartararo parking his bike in the wrong spot during the flag-to-flag race at Le Mans – or cunning use of the rules – see Marc Márquez crossing the white lines on pit lane entry at the same race. Sometimes, it has because we needed clarification of very specific situations, such as Miguel Oliveira and Joan Mir exceeding track limits on the last lap in Mugello.
And sometimes, we have had to consult the rules because something so outrageous and unusual has happened that nobody is quite sure whether something is actually legal, and if not, what the punishment is. Engineers refers to these situations as edge cases: a new and unexpected situation that nobody realized was possible, because it hasn't happened before, and requires a very specific and unusual set of circumstances. Such as a rider finishing a race with their leathers unzipped for the last four laps, as happened to Fabio Quartararo on Sunday.
It is a shame that we have to spend so much time on the rulebook, because these instances overshadow some impressive performances and superb racing action. Barcelona threw up a veritable roller-coaster of emotions and spectacle, in both the positive and negative sense. We should be talking about Miguel Oliveira's impressive ride to victory, Johann Zarco's quiet championship assault, Yamaha's curious up and down weekend, whether Marc Márquez' crash means he is getting more competitive or losing ground, and just where Honda stand now:
In these subscriber notes:
- Why Fabio Quartararo unzipped his leathers, and whether the punishment fit the crime
- How the collapse of the MSMA is affecting MotoGP
- Miguel Oliveira and KTM's revival
- Is Johann Zarco the new Joan Mir?
- Is Marc Márquez back? And will he be any time soon?
- Honda in a hole
But first, one of the most bizarre incidents we have seen in world championship racing for a while: Fabio Quartararo's open leathers. The Frenchman raced for 20 laps with his leathers closed – all clearly visible on the video feed – and somewhere between Turn 1 at the start of lap 21 and Turn 4 on the same lap, Quartararo's leathers were open.
Examining the evidence
There is a lot to address here, but first, let's walk through the timeline, on the basis of screenshots from the MotoGP.com video feed. The MotoGP.com video pass has the advantage of watching the entire race from multiple onboard camera views, as well as the broadcast feed with and without commentary, and the overhead shot from the helicopter camera. With a bit of dedication and a lot of time, we can reconstruct exactly what happened to Fabio Quartararo.
First, here is what Quartararo himself said about the incident: "What happened? I don’t know. I just know that I had the leathers completely open in the first corner, I think 5 laps to go, and I just tried to put [the zip] in a normal position again. I couldn't do it. So yeah, it was difficult to ride but unfortunately it happens. It happened today, so Alpinestars are looking how it's possible because at the end of the race it was possible again to close it."
Is that really the case? 5 laps to go would be the start of lap 20. However, the screenshot below, taken at the end of lap 20, you can just about see that Quartararo's leathers are still closed, no chest is exposed.
Did Fabio Quartararo mistake which lap his leathers were open? Here's a shot of Miguel Oliveira and Quartararo entering Turn 1 at the start of lap 21. Once again, it appears that his leathers are closed.
20 seconds later, however, the cameras show Oliveira and Quartararo approaching Turn 4, and the Frenchman's leathers are open, his chest clearly visible. So what happened in the intervening period?
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