The Lusail International Circuit is to undergo major renovation work at the end of 2022 and into 2023, to upgrade the facilities and paddock.
As a result, it will relinquish its position as the first race of the MotoGP season, instead being moved back to the end of the year.
With Qatar out of the frame as the first race of 2023, this hugely increases the chances of Phillip Island as the first race of the season.
After the first MotoGP race of 2022, the Qatar Grand Prix was over, an observant Twitter follower asked me why the symbol used for Marc Marquez’ front tire choice was different to everyone else.
Watching the replay and then consulting the analysis PDFs on MotoGP’s new results section made clear what Marquez had done.
He and his team and chosen to fit a soft front tire that had been scrubbed in, and consequently, had been used for one lap already.
Episode 266 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and this one sees us covering the Qatar GP at the Lusail International Circuit outside of Doha.
On the mics to discuss the season-opener, we have the full crew of Steve English, David Emmett, Neil Morrison, and Adam Wheeler, as they look at the first race of the 2022 MotoGP Championship season.
If it has felt like a long wait for the season to get underway again. And Saturday at Qatar showed us just what we have been missing. A surprising FP3, where eight riders managed to improve their lap times, despite the session taking place in the heat of the day, and the wind having picked up and bringing a dusting of sand to the track.
Among those who improved were Enea Bastianini, who jumped up to fifth, threatening Pol Espargaro, Pecco Bagnaia, and Fabio Quartararo. Espargaro and Bagnaia bettered their times, Quartararo did not, setting up another thrilling contest to get out of Q1 and into Q2. If you were looking for drama, you got everything you could have hoped for, and more.
You even got the customary yellow flag drama in qualifying, with laps being canceled due to yellow flags having a significant impact on the grid in all three classes. A yellow flag waved at the end of Q1 for a crash by Darryn Binder meant Johann Zarco had his best lap canceled, put in right at the end of the session.
Although fans don’t like the rule, it was put in place after a couple of horrific incidents, most notably when Tito Rabat had his leg destroyed at Silverstone in 2018 when he was hit by Franco Morbidelli’s bike. The aim is to slow riders down when they see a yellow flag, something which the change has been largely successful in doing. But it comes at the price of laps being canceled.
Whenever an important lap gets canceled, there is an outcry to find a better solution. Unfortunately, a better solution is almost impossible to find. All of the alternatives proposed just introduce other problems, as you would expect when the law of unintended consequences kicks in.
Testing is all well and good, but at last, we have real, actual data from a race track on a bona fide race weekend. All 24 bikes on the track at the same time, trying to figure out as much as possible in two short 45 minute sessions.
No running separately, or trying to figure out how the conditions for the 8-lap run done at 11am compare to the 12-lap run at 2pm, or the 7-lap run at 5pm.
The first day at Qatar may have been genuine competition, but the picture was also confused by the schedule. With FP1 at 1:40pm, in the heat of the day, and FP2 shortly after sunset, at 6pm, conditions were completely different, the air temperature 7°C lower, and the track a whole 16°C cooler.
“Well, for sure now it is hard to see who has the better pace than the other because we don’t have the normal day schedule,” Miguel Oliveira reflected after the first day.”The hour is not that different but for the temperature and the wind it changes quite a lot.”
From time to time, when I stray from talking about motorcycle racing to share something political on Twitter, I am told by some random Twitter user to “stick to bikes”.
What they mean, of course, is that I should not share political opinions or articles they do not agree with, but that’s a different question.
Talking about politics is, of course, still “sticking to bikes.” Circuits have to be built somewhere.
Episode 265 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and this one sees us gearing up for the start of the 2022 MotoGP Championship season.
To get us ready for the weekend’s season-opener, we have the usual crew of Steve English, David Emmett, Neil Morrison, and Adam Wheeler on the mics, as they look at their picks not only for the Qatar GP, but also the 2022 season as a whole.
Episode 196 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and this show is the first of our MotoGP race coverage for the 2021 season.
On the mics, we have our usual crew of Steve English, David Emmett, Neil Morrison, and Adam Wheeler, who discuss in depth the on-track action under the lights of Losail.
Saturday was a day for smashing records in Qatar. First up was the top speed record, Johann Zarco hitting 362.4 km/h at the end of the front straight during FP4.
Not just the top speed record for Qatar, but the highest speed ever record at a MotoGP track, the previous record 356.7 km/h set by Andrea Dovizioso at Mugello.
To put that in to context, it is 100.666 meters per second. Or put another way, it took Johann Zarco less than one second to cover the distance which takes Usain Bolt 9.6 seconds. It is a mind-bending, brain-warping speed.
The normal build up to a MotoGP weekend sees the teams and riders spend FP1 figuring out which tires they think will work, then FP2 working on setup and then chasing a preliminary spot in FP2, leaving themselves plenty of work for Saturday, especially in FP4. But, Qatar is not a normal weekend.
For a start, MotoGP arrives here after a total of five days of testing (well, four days, strictly speaking, as the last day of the test was lost to strong winds and a sandy track). Setups have already been found, tires have already been chosen.
The preseason is over. Preparations have been made, new parts tested, bikes, bodies, and brains readied, though not necessarily in that order. MotoGP is on the verge of starting another brand new season.
There was less to develop, test, and prepare this year, the aftermath of rules imposed during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic introducing freezes on engine development and limiting aerodynamic updates.
The four factories who did not have concessions in 2020 – Ducati, Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha – will all be forced to use the engines they homologated for their riders last year for the 2021 season.
KTM, who lost concessions thanks to a phenomenally successful season which included three victories, has been allowed to design a new engine for 2021, but must freeze it at the first race in Qatar.
Aprilia, the only remaining factory with full concessions, will be allowed to continue to develop their engine throughout 2021, and will have nine engines to last the season, instead of the seven the other factories have to try to make last the year.
In terms of aerodynamics, things are a little simpler: the riders can either use their 2020 aero package, or they can introduce one upgrade aero package at any time during the season (including at the first race).
And of course, aerodynamics packages are applied per rider, rather than per manufacturer.