MotoGP Rules Update: Stewards Disciplinary Panel Confirmed, Tire Pressure Sensors Mandatory

As we reported on Tuesday, changes are to be made to Race Direction. At a meeting in Geneva on Thursday, the Grand Prix Commission decided to change the way disciplinary matters are handled by Race Direction. For this season, a separate body is to be set up to handle all incidents on track requiring disciplinary action. These issues have been handled by Race Direction until now, but the incident at Sepang between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez led to calls for such decisions to be taken away from Race Direction, to allow quicker decisions to be made.

From the start of the 2016 season, all disciplinary matters will be dealt with by a separate panel, consisting of three people. One of those will be Mike Webb, who as MotoGP Race Director is ultimately responsible for all aspects of the MotoGP race. Mike Webb will be joined by two stewards appointed by the FIM. Those stewards have yet to be appointed, and the press release issued by the FIM does not make clear whether the stewards will be appointed permanently, for a full season, or for each race individually. In the case of an incident which needs to be investigated by the panel of stewards, Mike Webb will hand over his duties as Race Director to a newly appointed deputy, Graham Webber.

The agreement to appoint a panel of stewards was much more complicated than expected. Throughout the course of the MotoGP test at Sepang, the various parties involved - FIM, the manufacturers, and Dorna - submitted a range of proposals, varying from the extremely intrusive and limiting to the more moderate proposals which were eventually adopted. The problem centers around the interpretation of rule 1.21.2, which covers the behavior of riders during the race:

2. Riders must ride in a responsible manner which does not cause danger to other competitors or participants, either on the track or in the pit-lane. Any infringement of this rule will be penalised with one of the following penalties: penalty points - fine - change of position - ride through – time penalty – drop of any number of grid position at the rider’s next race – disqualification - withdrawal of Championship points - suspension.

The wording is vague, and has been left deliberately so, as to try to narrow down a definition of exactly what comprises irresponsible riding would open more loopholes than it would close, and lead to more appeals against sanctions imposed. Under the old adage that hard cases make bad law, each and every possible infringement would have to be described in detail, which would lead either to riders pleading that their actions were subtly different to those described in the rules, and that they should they should go unpunished, or it would lead to absolute paralysis by riders, afraid to attempt a pass for fear of being penalized.

The problem with the existing system was that Dorna's Javier Alonso is a member of Race Direction, as the representative in charge of organizing all MotoGP events. Though Alonso has never previously been accused of showing any bias or favoritism, or of shaping events to fit in to Dorna's schedule, the accusations of pro-Spanish bias after the incident at Sepang raised concerns about Alonso having a say in disciplinary proceedings. To avoid any such accusations in the future, Alonso has been removed from the disciplinary equation.

The FIM press release also contains a rather strange and intriguing sentence about the communication of sanctions to the teams. According to the release, they are to be communicated via "a secure E-mail [sic] system with automated confirmation that the message has been read'. How the email is to be secured is unspecified, as is how the read confirmation is to be achieved. It also suggests that some teams were claiming not to have read emails from Race Direction containing notification of sanctions. 

The creation of the stewards panel was not the only decision agreed upon during the Grand Prix Commission meeting. Another disciplinary measure was introduced: from this season, riders who skip their promotional obligations will not just face fines, but can be punished using the penalty point system as well. To this end, their obligations are to become part of the rules, instead of just set out in the contracts between teams and Dorna. The promotional activities are deeply unpopular with most of the riders, though most participate nonetheless. The threat of penalty points is aimed at coercing riders who are rich enough to view fines as a cheap price to pay for getting out of promotional activities.

Perhaps the most important rule adopted by the Grand Prix Commission was introducing greater control over tire pressures. Eventually, tire pressure sensors will be compulsory, but the details of how that is to be achieved is still to be worked out by the MSMA and Michelin. Until that is arranged, the technical marshals at each race will have the authority to monitor and check tire pressures at all points during the weekend. The new rule was brought in after the rear tire of Loris Baz' Avintia Ducati exploded at high speed down the front straight at Sepang as a result of too low a tire pressure being used.

The final rule of interest is the change to Moto2 quickshifters. A single supplier is to be appointed for quickshifters, but only after a plan has been worked out allowing all Moto2 teams to swap to the spec quickshifter. The rule is aimed at preventing the smarter Moto2 teams from exploiting the extra functionality which some quickshifter hardware offers, and from preventing gearbox problems caused by some quickshifters. Those two facts are sometimes related, as Moto2 teams have been chasing minimal ignition cuts during gear changes, allowing the rear wheel to be driven for as long as possible. The shorter the ignition cut, the greater the stress on the gearbox. 

Below is the press release from the FIM with the changes to the rules:

FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA) in the presence of Vito Ipollito (President FIM), Javier Alonso (Dorna) and Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on February 4 in Geneva, made the following decisions:

Sporting Regulations

Effective Immediately

Race Direction and Stewards

The composition of Race Direction will remain unchanged with three members; Mike Webb (Race Director), Franco Uncini (FIM) and Javier Alonso (Dorna). However there will be a new appointment of Graham Webber as Deputy Race Director who will deputise for the Race Director when he is otherwise occupied.

Race Direction will continue to be primarily responsible for the efficient and safe running of events. However, the competence of Race Direction concerning the application of sanctions and penalties will be limited to those offences that can be considered as being indisputable matters of fact. These would include such offences as pit lane speeding, passing under yellow flags, etc.

All other issues requiring further analysis of actions, including any incidences of dangerous riding, will be reviewed by the Stewards who will exclusively be responsible for issuing any sanctions and penalties on those matters. The Stewards will also be responsible for hearing any appeals and receiving any protests. The panel of Stewards will comprise three members; Mike Webb and two other members appointed by the FIM. Mike Webb will be responsible for co-ordinating the activities of the Stewards, maintaining records and communicating decisions.

In future, any sanctions imposed by Race Direction or the Stewards will be communicated to the affected team by a secure E-mail system with automated confirmation that the message has been read. Confirmed penalties will also be displayed on timekeeping monitors and advised to the media.

Promotional Obligations for Riders

A number of obligations for riders to participate in promotional activities, already contained in the Participation Agreements between IRTA and the Teams, will now also be included in the Grand Prix regulations. Such obligations include the requirement for riders to participate in autograph signing sessions, press conferences, parade laps, etc. The effect is that non-compliance by riders can now result in sporting penalties in addition to the financial penalties contained in the Participation Agreements.

Technical Regulations

Effective Immediately

MotoGP Class Electronics

The procedure which enables the Technical Director to check specific maintenance channels on the internal datalogger, together with the precise list of compulsory channels available to him, was approved.

The homologation procedure for sensors available from third party suppliers as well as those made by the motorcycle manufacturers was approved.

MotoGP Class Minimum Tyre Pressures

Existing regulations on this matter have been reinforced enabling the Technical Director and his staff, assisted by the engineers of the official tyre supplier, to check that minimum tyre pressures are respected.

Ultimately, such information will be recorded automatically via the datalogger and be available via download by the technical staff. However, as the equipment and method of electronically recording the information has still to be finalised the technical staff and the staff of the official tyre supplier are now authorised to manually verify tyre pressures at any time.

Moto2 Class Quickshift Equipment

It has been identified that certain gearbox malfunctions in the Championship supplied engines are largely attributable to some of the quickshift components produced by third party suppliers. The Technical Director, in consultation with Externpro, will specify a brand and model of a proprietary quickshift product from a third party supplier that will be mandatory for this class. Actual implementation of this regulation will be enforced when the Technical Director is satisfied that all teams have had sufficient time to acquire the new material.

A regularly updated version of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations which contains the detailed text of the regulation changes may be viewed shortly on:

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Whaaaat? George Orwell is running MotoGP now? Big Brother makes autograph signing sessions obligatory?

How the wheel turns: I've actually come full circle with Stoner. I remember being quite angry when he quit, that he was possibly the most gifted rider the sport has ever seen, and that he would rather walk away than put up with all the background bullshit. Following last years end of season fracas, the back-pedalling on the unified software, the u-turn on previously agreed concessions to struggling manufacturers, and now this sort of minor mandatory madness I'm actually starting to think Stoner is a visionary.

Seriously, how ludicrous that Dorna strangle the sport with their draconian attitude to TV and online viewing yet force riders to carry out PR duties when Dorna are so crap at promoting the sport themselves.

Complaints surface about the potential for bias by Dorna for having a person as part of race direction, and the response is to replace those suspicions by now imposing penalties against riders for not upholding PR commitments with Dorna.... And this stands up to reason how?

And since they bring up this matter of skipping comitments, I suppose that should have meant Rossi getting a fine, or now further penalty points, for skipping the awards cerimony in Valancia like a spoiled brat and sore looser. Choosing rather to send Massio Merigalli to collect the second place hardware instead. I said I suppose, because we all know they would never do so. Afterall this whole thing stinks of appeasement rather than any real problems getting solved.

The only clear message given in this release is a dangerous one, pun intended, that dangerous riding is no longer a matter of indisputable fact, but rather one that requires further analysis to be recognized and deliberated on. This is the exact opposite of what was needed and just further slows down the procees.

Not the right message to send to a grid full of riders who making their living by taking a mile when given an inch.

The only other certainty now is that Mike Webb must loath being the man responsible for introducing this penalty points system in the first place.

I think Marquez is the most dangerous rider on the track but thats my opinion. Rossi is usually a very clean rider. How many times have we seen Marquez just barely missed someone rear tire under braking. How many people did Marquez hit in Moto2, he had to start from the back of the grid how many time? Marquez bumped into Rossi how many times this season? Brazil, Assen, and even Sepang. You're seriously going to tell me he couldn't ride off the track at that slow speed when Rossi stood him up but when these guys win races they can ride ANYWHERE on a cool down lap. Give me a break. Marquez turned into Rossi and hit the deck.

Luckily plenty of people disagree with you. We are lucky enough to live in a time where HD footage can be reviewed in slow mo and people aren't forced to make quick and possibly wrong decisions on the outcome of a race or championship especially since the internet and social media exist, a bad call can really do damage to the sport financially. You have to understand at the end of the day MotoGP, no matter what the fans and racers think, is a business, end of story. Technology and common sense prevail. We are no longer racing in the 80's. Welcome to 2016

Now every result will be unofficial until the review party has had there say.. I'm sorry but if that's what technology brings than you can keep it.

Race Direction relies on calls from the track side Marshalls more than they do TV camera, and there are lots of things that happen off camera you don't see and neither would they if it were not this way.

The above change to make it where race direction is no longer competent to review cases of dangerous riding is a joke and just a kneejerk reaction to apease but it does more harm than good.

Now all cases will be handeld as they were in Sepang, there Mike Webb made the call to put the issue to the side for further review. All that did was open the door for protests and appeals. Now we have lots more of that to look forward to.

Action needs to be swift and served during the race to be a deterent. Adding up points and debating how many should or shouldn't be assigned only serves to delay action at best, and create controversy at worst, fueling fires rather than extinguishing them.

To muddle it up even further now teams get an email to confirm penalties ... The fans only learn when it get added to timing and scoring and advised to the media.. Im all for technology where it servers a purpose but this is just ridiculous.

It might make me old fashion but I would have rather seen the whole penalty points system removed, and go back to a flag gets waived and a board hung over pit wall with the offending riders number on it. Simple.

Because the one where I am just put out their 2016 rules and they now include the same penalty points system as used in MotoGP...

It is all a knock down affect of each series following the lead from the one above it..First came, WSBK, then CEV, Enduracnce and across the pond to MotoAmerica and now the local club here.

All this because of a single rider who the sport decided not to deal with their agressive riding early enough and swiftly. That rider is Marq Marquez.

The ultimate irony is that he's managed to evade the system designed to get him, all while doing nothing to change his behavior, yet the rest of the world must now suffer with this ridiculus penalty points system as a result for years to come.

The NFL has been using instant replay and slow motion footage for a long time to review issues. Nothing has been made better; the rules by consequence have just become more complex - the more details you can see, the more rules you have to write to address those details. Go try and figure out what a catch is in the NFL. Nobody knows anymore. They try to use video review for disciplinary measures as well - was this hit legal or illegal? All it results in is wasted time and controversy. It doesn't actually resolve anything. Because no matter what you see, you can interpret it to support what viewpoint you want to arrive at. Most everyone has a bias, and that bias is formed on the initial viewing of the incident. People rarely change their viewpoint, as David has pointed out in another article on the Sepang thing.

The best option is to find people with integrity have them make a judgement and stick with it. Don't waste a bunch of time coming up to what will always be an ambiguous conclusion.

One detail: David you wrote "Loris Baz' Avintia Ducati exploded at high speed [...] as a result of too low a tire pressure being used."
Has it been proven now, is there an official statement by Michelin or Dorna or FIM?
As you wrote earlier, Avintia was saying pressure was ok it was tire's fault, Michelin was saying pressure probably too low. Since there is a Michelin guy in every garage they should now, right?
Anyway Michelin wasn't sure it was under pressure, otherwise they would not have withdrawn the soft rear for the rest of the test, so now that the tire has been shipped back to Clermont-Ferrand, any news on this front?

Not related to the previous issue, but I remember reading quotes from someone from Dorna (Ezpelata?) stating that they would have to think about a system to avoid riders/teams systematically referring to TAS to ask for penalty suspension as Rossi did. Obviously this was significantly the first time in Grand Prix history that TAS was involved in an issue regarding dangerous riding (previously it only dealt with doping issues, see Haga for example). Since it takes about a year to get a TAS ruling, if they suspend a given penalty, this would void it of any effect during a current season and titles could even change hands afterwards and so on...
Did Dorna (and FIM) eventually assess that there's nothing they can do about it?

From what I understood, all inflating, deflating, and pressure checking was done by the Michelin tech in the garage. So if the tyre was under-inflated then it was by a Michelin hand (or a failure).

Thank you David for making clear that most of the new decisions are totally....unclear! :) much the riders detest the promotional activities. That is part of their job, is it not? If they hate it so much they can't even bear to show up for a press conference or a signing session, then maybe a different job would be more suitable? This is the (small) price they pay to do what they love as a full-time job and if they want to continue doing that, maybe they should just have a piece of humble pie and get on with it like any other corporate employee in this world has to. Stoner had this figured out and he admirably rather quit the sport on the top of his game instead of continuing to grin and bear it for the fame or money or ego or whatever drives each rider while secretly hating it all inside. He knew exactly what sacrifices he was willing to make and decided that it was no longer worth it. Maybe this kind of self-reflection would help a few other riders to approach their contractual duties in a better way.

Standing up everyone at a press conference (Rossi in Malaysia), skipping official award ceremonies without reason (Rossi at Valencia), refusing to speak to the media because you're "in a mood" (plenty of riders) is not just bad form, it is unprofessional. I get that being a MotoGP rider is not a job like any other, that the riders are under constant scrutiny, high pressure and in high demand every race weekend, but it's a shame that such a ruling even has to be enforced to keep employees, which is what riders essentially are, to their agreed contract. The media exposure is what this sport and any sport is ultimately about. Sure, going fast is part of it and helps everyone involved, but it is the plastering of their faces and names on the TV and every branded item that makes the sales and brings in the money to keep the sport alive. All so that these very riders can continue to enjoy going around in circles very fast.

To me it is ridiculous to think that previously the richer riders could simply pay their way out of promotional duties for the very companies which made them that rich in the first place.

Maybe I should try this pick-and-choose approach at my job and see how that goes...

You are right but I think you are a bit too harsh with Rossi... in his very long career I think you can count his no-shows on the fingers of one hand. Specifically for Sepang: it was a big mess up on all fronts the delay unbearable for DP and JL who instead of finally getting out of their leathers in postrace mode had to wait for i don't know how long to get in the press to room and justly upset. VR was in RD and honestly I don't think anyone was surprised to not see him there. Despite the long wait. I think it was poorly handled in every way. As for not participating to the Gala ... well I would cut him some slack on that one.
More generally I'm surprised that one of the main new rules is about "showing at events" I mean with all the problems that came up at the end of the season to focus on being nice at events sound to me a bit ludicrous. And probably might bite them back: is a racer going to show up and smile to the crowd because he enjoys the contact with public or he's just doing it in order not to lose some points? Do we really want smiling robots outside the track regardless of their personality and feeling with the crowd?
This all thing sounds a bit silly and pointless to me

The Valencia gala was considered as a promotional event. I could be very wrong here. But is every single one of the riders who rides in MGP supposed to be at gala without fail, offcourse with strictly no exception for the champion?