Alvaro Bautista will be forced to start from the back of the grid at the next MotoGP race, the German round at the Sachsenring. The punishment was imposed by Race Direction for Bautista's error at Assen, where he braked far too late for the first corner and crashed, taking out Jorge Lorenzo in the process. Bautista's team appealed the penalty to the FIM Stewards - as Marc Marquez' team had done over the penalty at Barcelona - but the FIM Stewards backed the decision by Race Direction, and the penalty will stand.
The crash was universally condemned by the riders at Assen, with Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies both saying that they saw Bautista still on the gas while they were already braking for the corner. But Jorge Lorenzo was naturally the most upset about it, the Spaniard telling the media that he felt the penalty was not harsh enough. "It's a big disaster, Alvaro's move. He was completely out of control, completely crazy, I don't know what he was thinking at that moment. When all the riders were braking, he was full throttle," Lorenzo said. "But I'm more disappointed about the decision of Race Direction to only penalize him to start at the back of the grid. With the CRT in front of him, in two laps he will be in a good position."
What Lorenzo really wanted was a one-race ban. "I was penalized with a one-race ban in 2005 with a move that was much, much less risky than his worse. John Hopkins was penalized for one race for the same move like Bautista. It's not the first time Alvaro has done something like this. He made the same or worse, because five riders were involved in his mistake. It's not fair, and I'm very disappointed with race direction. If we keep not acting with a hard hand against the riders who are making this movement, in the Rookies Cup, in Moto3, Moto2, MotoGP, we could have another bad situation."
While Bautista will suffer for one race, Lorenzo ended up effectively being punished twice. The Factory Yamaha man lost any chance of finishing the race when the engine in his M1 destroyed itself in the gravel after the crash. This engine was nearly new, having been used for the first time on Friday during free practice in the morning. It only had a couple of hundred kilometers of the 2400 or so that each engine must last to make it to the end of the year, and though Yamaha did not have reliability problems last year, their engines are not designed with much margin for error. Losing an older engine with over 1000 km on it might be manageable, but a brand new engine puts Lorenzo in a difficult situation. There is a very solid chance that Lorenzo will have to use a 7th engine later in the year, forcing him to take a penalty and start from pit lane. "It's impossible to finish the championship with the engines we have," Lorenzo said.
Lorenzo himself was convinced that Race Direction would allow him to replace the damaged engine without taking a penalty, telling the media "Race Direction told me we could have a new engine." The rules say that he can't however: section 22.214.171.124 is very clear, stating that any new engine taken will be subject to a penalty. The rules do not contain an escape clause, which might allow exceptions at the discretion of Race Direction, leaving Lorenzo with a lot of miles to eke out of his old engines.
Below is the official press release from the FIM announcing the penalty on Bautista:
2012 FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix
Iveco TT Assen: Decision of the Race Direction and FIM Stewards
On Saturday 30 June 2012 during the first lap of the MotoGP race rider Alvaro Bautista (SPA) rode in an irresponsible manner, causing danger to rider Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) which is an infringement to the article N. 1.21.2 of the 2012 FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix regulations.
The Race Direction decided to impose on Alvaro Bautista the penalty of starting the next race in Sachsenring on 8 July 2012 from the last position on the starting grid.
An appeal was lodged by San Carlo Honda Gresini.
The FIM Stewards confirmed the decision of the Race Direction.
The decision of FIM Stewards is final.