Valentino Rossi Appeals Sepang Penalty to CAS, Asks for Suspension of Penalty at Valencia

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Valentino Rossi has lodged an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the penalty imposed upon him at Sepang for his role in the incident between Marc Marquez and himself.

Rossi has asked the CAS to issue a stay of the penalty, effectively suspending it until the full case can be heard before the court. A ruling on the stay is to be issued by November 6th.

The penalty was imposed on Rossi after he and Marquez collided on lap seven of the Sepang round of MotoGP, causing Marquez to crash. At the time, Race Direction ruled that Rossi was to blame for the crash, and imposed three penalty points on Rossi.

That brought his points total to four, meaning that he must start at Valencia from the back of the grid, regardless of the position he obtains in qualifying. Rossi immediately appealed against the penalty to the FIM Stewards, who sit in judgment at every MotoGP round to rule on Race Direction penalties.

With the Race Stewards upholding the Race Direction penalty, Rossi could no longer take his appeal any further within the FIM.

However, he did have the possibility to take the case to the CAS, which rules on conflicts between interested parties (usually athletes) and the international federations and governing bodies of sports. Rossi had five days to submit an appeal, deciding to go ahead with the appeal on final day.

Normally, the CAS takes between 6 and 12 months to handle cases, and because it takes so long, Rossi has appealed for a temporary suspension of the penalty, under section R37 of CAS’ procedural rules.

Under that rule, Rossi can claim that upholding the penalty will cause “irreparable harm” to his MotoGP career and season. Two other factors are also taken into account: firstly, the merits of the claim, and lastly, whether Rossi’s interests are greater than those of Race Direction, who imposed the penalty upon him.

Under CAS rules, they will have to consult with Race Direction before ruling on whether or not to suspend Rossi’s penalty.

The goal of the request for a suspension of the penalty is simple. By having the three-point penalty suspended, Rossi will not have to start from the back of the grid, having collected just a single penalty point outside of Sepang this year. He would start from the position in which he qualifies.

If Rossi should then lose the case when the full CAS hearing is held, then the penalty would be applied at the next race after the CAS rules. That would likely be at the earliest in the first part of the 2016 MotoGP season.

Theoretically, if Rossi were to retire after his contract expires in 2016, and the CAS take 12 months or more to issue a ruling, Rossi may end up not being penalized at all.

If the request for suspension is denied, then the grid penalty will be applied at Valencia, and Rossi will start from the back of the grid. If he subsequently goes on to win the appeal at the CAS, the penalty points would be subtracted retrospectively.

However, given the fact that Rossi would have had to start from the back of the grid, winning the appeal would be meaningless in terms of the 2015 season.

What is the likely outcome of the request for suspension? It is very hard to say. Rossi has a case when he says that being forced to start from the back of the grid would cause him irreparable harm. However, that was precisely the point of Race Direction imposing this penalty, a case they will make for not granting the suspension.

That will be the basis of the decision on whether Rossi’s interests outweigh Race Direction’s, as the penalty was meant to provide a specific punishment.

Whether the CAS will decide that Rossi’s claim has any merits is not clear. As the original decision of Race Direction was upheld by the FIM Stewards, the balance appears to be against Rossi. The CAS will make a ruling before or on November, 6th 2015, in time for qualifying at Valencia.

To simplify the situation, here is a timeline of what has happened, and what happens next:

  1. After the collision at Sepang, Race Direction imposed a penalty of three penalty points on Valentino Rossi.
  2. Those points brought Rossi’s total to four, meaning he must start Valencia from the back of the grid.
  3. Rossi appealed against the decision by Race Direction to the FIM Stewards.
  4. The FIM Stewards upheld the decision by Race Direction, meaning that the three penalty points stand.
  5. Rossi has appealed that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), who will take between 6 and 12 months to hear the case.
  6. Because the penalty will affect the outcome of the 2015 championship, Rossi has appealed for the penalty to be suspended until the CAS makes its final ruling.
    • If the CAS suspend the penalty, Rossi will start the Valencia race from the position in which he qualifies.
    • If the CAS refuse to suspend the penalty, Rossi will start the Valencia race from the back of the grid.
  7. The CAS will give a final ruling on the case once the hearings are finished, at some point 6 to 12 months in the future.
  8. No appeal is possible against the ruling of the CAS, unless at some point, the whole procedure is found to have breached Swiss law.

In a further twist, the CAS rules allow third parties to be involved in the case. Theoretically, that would allow Jorge Lorenzo, or even Marc Marquez to get involved in the case. As the current situation has already devolved into a PR disaster for Yamaha, having Lorenzo involved would only make things worse.

Photo: © 2015 Tony Goldsmith / – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.