MotoGP Sepang: Malaysia offered a lot

MotoGP Fahrer Luca Marini

The MotoGP race in Malaysia had a lot to offer – the exciting World Championship battle between Francesco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin, the flaring discussion about the minimum tire pressure, which is pushing the riders to their limits, and the rumors about Marc Marquez’s successor at Repsol Honda. Malaysia provided plenty to talk about on and off the track. – Let’s break it down.

World championship battle in full swing

The Malaysia Grand Prix marked the third-to-last stop in the 2023 MotoGP season and the world championship has not yet been decided. While it initially looked like Francesco Bagnaia would defend his title with aplomb, it has now become a thrilling duel. The Ducati factory rider showed nerves during the season, which his rivals knew how to exploit. First and foremost Jorge Martin. The Pramac Ducati rider took every opportunity to reduce Bagnaia’s lead. He is now within striking distance and can become world champion. 

The title fight is in full swing and could not be decided prematurely in Malaysia either. It is to be hoped that this battle will continue into the season finale in Valencia, so that this MotoGP season comes to an exciting conclusion.

New tire pressure regulation causes displeasure

Since Silverstone, a minimum value of 1.88 bar has been applied to the front tire. If this value is undercut, the first warnings and later time penalties follow. Finding the perfect setting for the temperature-sensitive Michelin tires is a challenge for drivers and teams. It is a balancing act between too much and too little. Between a possible crash or a penalty. In the high temperatures in Malaysia, several riders fell below the minimum pressure and had to accept warnings.

The dilemma with the minimum value is that if the temperatures are too high, for example when riding behind in a group, the pressure increases this makes the front tire in particular unrideable, overtaking becomes impossible and, in the worst case, there is a risk of a crash. Excessively high outside temperatures also have the same effect. In the hot MotoGP race in Malaysia, overtaking maneuvers were few and far between, but we did see six crashes over the front wheel.

Teams and drivers are currently playing with the settings and accepting warnings and time penalties. In 2024, however, failure to comply with the minimum value will mean disqualification. A rule that was introduced for safety reasons is becoming a safety risk and a mood killer – perhaps we should take another look at it.

Repsol Honda and the free grid position

The speculation surrounding the possible replacement for Marc Marquez at Repsol Honda also caused a stir. More and more names were mentioned over the course of the last race weekend. It was wild. The speculation and names circulated wildly, giving the impression that the Japanese didn’t know what they wanted. The first name thrown into the ring was Pol Espargaro. He quickly waved it off and ruled out a return to his former bike. Then names were thrown out from all corners – Miguel Oliveira, Maverick Vinales, Fermin Aldeguere. According to speculation, the negotiations broke down over the one-year contract on offer.

At the end of the race weekend, the name Luca Marini emerged. The VR46 rider is considered the hottest candidate. After all, his brother Valentino Rossi made a telling Instagram post from the old days with his Repsol Honda. Unusual. Because die-hard MotoGP fans know that the relationship between Valentino Rossi and Repsol Honda did not end well. 

It is not yet clear whether Luca Marini will really switch. But the probability is more than high.

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