Any fool could see that Marc Márquez coming back to race at the second race in Jerez, after breaking his arm in the first race, was a bad idea. The fact that he has had to have a second operation to replace the plate in his arm merely confirms this.
But MotoGP racers are no ordinary fools, of course. Like all elite athletes, they are driven to extraordinary lengths to compete, taking extraordinary risks, pushing their bodies and minds to the limits of their abilities, and all too often, beyond. They do not consider whether something might be a bad idea or not.
For a MotoGP rider, the short term is the next practice session, the medium term is the race on Sunday, the long term is the championship standing at the end of the season. Anything beyond that is not relevant to the job at hand, which is to try to win races and titles.
That blinkered focus means that they are, as a rule, incapable of taking sensible decisions about their health, in either the short or the long term. But it is precisely that same blinkered focus which has brought them to where they are, racing at the very highest levels of the world championship. The ability to exclude anything that doesn't directly involve racing from their minds and devote all of their mental and physical energy to racing is what makes them so successful.
The decisions of MotoGP racers are foolish in the long term, but when viewed from the warped perspective of an elite athlete, they have an internal logic and consistency which makes sense to them. As I said, MotoGP racers are no ordinary fools...
With the benefit of hindsight, the immediate result of Marc Márquez' decision to try to race at the Andalusian Grand Prix, a week after breaking his right arm in the first race at Jerez, was the wrong one. He tried to ride, but was forced to stop when the pain became unbearable. And now, barely a week on after returning home from Jerez, he has been forced to undergo another operation, to replace the plate in his right arm, which has been damaged. That makes his decision to ride look even worse.
The show must go on
If there is an extenuating circumstance to Márquez' decision to ride – and the decisions of all racers and athletes to come back way too early – it is that the races happen whether they are ready or not. Marc Márquez decided he couldn't race at Jerez 9 days ago, and the race went on without him. Marc Márquez scored zero points toward the 2020 championship, while Fabio Quartararo scored another 25, Maverick Viñales scored another 20, Valentino Rossi took home 16 points.
The FIM took no interest in whether the reigning champion was on the grid or not when it came to handing out the points. Full points were awarded, and rightly so. Those are the rules of the game: a race is organized, riders line up, and the first 15 riders to take the flag are awarded points. If you fall off while leading? No points. Can't make the grid? No points. The simplicity is part of the appeal.
However, that leaves riders with a stark choice: they can try to ride, and hope to bag at least a few points in the hope of better times to come, or they can sit out the race and be guaranteed zero points. The race goes on without them, and they have one less race to try to win the championship, giving their rivals for the title a free shot, an advantage in the chase. The pressure – external in part, but mostly internal – to race is tremendous. The possibility of a short-term gain always wins out over the long-term consequences.
There is another factor which clouds the judgment of these riders. They are almost always carrying an injury of some sort or another. On the first MotoGP weekend at Jerez, there was a grand total of 42 crashes over all three days. Of those crashes, five riders required medical examination, three of whom were declared unfit: Alex Rins, who fractured a humerus and dislocated a shoulder on Saturday; Cal Crutchlow, who fractured a scaphoid and suffered a concussion on Sunday morning; and of course Marc Márquez, who broke his humerus during the race. Tom Lüthi and Somkiat Chantra were examined and passed fit.
That is just five of the 35 different riders who crashed during the weekend. The rest may have "Rider OK" marked next to their name in the falls report officially compiled by Dorna, and nearly all will have gotten up out of the gravel of their own accord and walked away, but does that mean they were unhurt? "Rider OK" merely means they are able to proceed under their own power, and do not need medical assistance or assessment before being allowed to ride again. But crashing still hurts, despite the very best efforts of Alpinestars, AGV, Arai et al. Riders have bumps, scrapes, bruises, often deep contusions and bruised bones after a crash.
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