The MotoGP penalty point system is no more. The system, introduced for the 2013 season, whereby Race Direction could punish rider infringements with penalty points, which would accumulate throughout the year and could result in a race ban, has been scrapped at the latest meeting of the Grand Prix Commission.
The penalty points system had been introduced in response (at least in part) to a number of incidents involving Marc Marquez through the 2012 season. There were complaints from the fans, but also from teams and other riders, that Race Direction was not being even-handed in applying existing penalties to riders.
It was sometimes hard for Race Direction to explain why one rider had been given a particular punishment, but another rider who had done something apparently similar had not.
In an attempt to make the situation simpler for all to understand, a penalty point system was introduced, similar to that used in several countries for driving licenses.
Initially, riders who accumulated a total of 4 points would have to start from the back of the grid, then if they reached 7 points, they would start from pit lane. If they accumulated 10 points, they would be given a one-race ban, at which point the slate would be wiped clean.
The ban underwent a number of changes: first, penalty points were given a life of one year from the point of issue. Then, after the controversy surrounding the events at Sepang in 2015 involving Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi, when Rossi was given 3 penalty points in addition to one he already had, and forced to start at the back of the grid, the penalties at 4 and 7 points were dropped.
Now, just over a year later, the points system has been scrapped altogether. The official reason given by the Grand Prix Commission is because “the FIM MotoGP Stewards have many penalty options, the penalty points were no longer necessary”.
There is some truth in that, and in the time since the penalty points system was introduced, Race Direction and the FIM MotoGP Stewards (another body set up in response to Sepang 2015), have been given more freedom to hand down penalties to rider transgressions.
But it appears that the penalty points system was too complex to work in practice, and didn’t solve the problems it was meant to. Penalty points were meant to deter Moto3 riders from waiting on the racing line for a tow, but it did not stop them. Moving them back several places on the grid seems to have had more effect.
Nor has it stopped riders crying foul when issued with penalty points for a particular infraction. They still point at comparable crimes committed by other riders, and demand to know why that action received different treatment.
The points system was meant to create flexibility, but in the end, it had the opposite effect. Imposing punishments on an ad hoc basis, seems to work better than trying to systematize them. Each rider infraction is unique, and needs to be punished appropriately.
The fact that the FIM MotoGP Stewards are now on-hand to assess rider infractions also makes it easier to impose appropriate penalties faster, and without having to resort to penalty points.
The Stewards meet separately during the race, while Race Direction can get on and manage the safe running of the race. They are able to assess penalties during the race, and if necessary impose them while the race is running, including black flagging a rider or handing down a ride through.
Previously, Race Direction would wait until after the race was finished to assess incidents, and check carefully who was to blame. That made a system of accumulating points a more logical system. But it has been superseded by the FIM MotoGP Stewards.
Source: FIM; Photo: © 2016 Tony Goldsmith / www.tonygoldsmith.net – All Rights Reserved
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.