Since the introduction of the new engine durability rules, aimed at cutting costs in the series, much debate has centered on the punishment to be meted out to anyone using an extra engine. In the original rules introduced earlier this year, punishment for any rider forced to use an extra engine outside of their allocation of 5 for the last 7 races of the season would be to have 10 points deducted. This has met with much resistance from the riders, who were all in favor of being put to the back of the grid, rather than having points deducted, as they felt it would at least give them a chance to compete.
The FIM, it seems, has listened. Today, the announcement was made that the rules are to be changed. Any rider using an extra engine outside of their allocation is to be punished by being made to start from the back of the grid. The manufacturers will be punished further by having 10 points deducted from the constructors championship, ensuring that they would not benefit by having another rider score points for them instead of the rider being punished.
The switch has come in response to rider pressure, but also because of the hypothetical risk of riders sitting out the race. As one of our readers pointed out earlier in the year, if a rider arrives at the last race of the season leading the championship by 26 points, but having used up all of his engine allocation, the sensible thing to do would be to sit out the race, rather than take the ten point penalty and risk losing the title by finishing too far down the field.
In reality, the change will not make that much difference, though. According to Jerry Burgess, the best that Valentino Rossi has ever done when circumstances have forced him to the back of the grid has been to finish third, a de facto loss of 9 points. However, just like buying a lottery ticket, the new rules at least allow the riders the illusion of improvement. They feel they have their fate back in their own hands, and whatever the reality of the matter, that feeling is what counts.