A few minutes of the first free practice of the Malaysian Grand Prix had been consumed, when Pol Espargaró went wide in the second corner of the circuit and when returning to the track he almost collided with Johann Zarco, who had to make an evasive maneuver to avoid taking ahead of the Spanish runner (here you can see the video of the action).
The action was not seen live on the international television signal, going completely unnoticed, it was the Frenchman who filed a claim and Espargaró called the Race Direction after training, to give explanations and, later, return to hear the verdict from the stewards: a three-place grid penalty ahead of Sunday’s race.
In the images that can be seen on motogp.com , the action looks absolutely clear to the naked eye. Pol goes off the track and comes back creating a really dangerous situation that, fortunately, ended without major consequences.
However, the Honda rider wanted to put what happened in context and, above all, what led him to return to the track so abruptly.
“I am quite angry. If you see the image, surely you can understand the penalty. But there are things that happen, why do I turn the track so fast and we almost crashed,” Pol said at the end of the day.
Malaysia is the only track in the World Cup that does not have ‘sneak’ zones for exceeding the track, for the simple fact that the edges of the track are grass and nobody goes out to step on them expressly.
“At that point of the track there should be an area of asphalt painted green, near the kerbing, until the end of it to rejoin the track slowly. It is like that on other tracks in the world, but here there is only grass,” he continues. Pol.
“I had to avoid the grass (so as not to fall) and get back on the track again, that’s why I met Johann. Apart from that, it was the first lap of FP1, everyone was feeling the track and how to go through that place”, recalls the Honda man.
“Also, the lap was cautioned for both of us. All things considered, I’m the first to admit it wasn’t pretty. We shouldn’t do this kind of thing, but you have to understand the whole picture of history.”
Pol’s anger came more from the poor reception they had in Race Direction to his explanations.
“It’s the same as always, you explain to them that the good thing would be… okay, we’re going to try to go to the site to see if what you say is true, if the green area ends at a given moment. They would understand and they wouldn’t penalize me , but they don’t, they don’t know anything and they penalize me three positions on the grid in the second lap of FP1”.
“I talked to them. I walk out of the room and come back in 30 minutes later and they tell me I’m penalized. They say it’s a bad way to get back on track, I say okay but did you hear what I was saying? I’m talking with a wall and then they do not repeat the images. They say: ‘We listen to you, but it is a bad return to the track’. It is what it is, “the Honda man resigns.
The summary is that Pol understands that it was a bad action, but that it was justified by the design of the track and, therefore, he does not consider the sanction fair.
“Surely not. The action was not pleasant, I don’t like it either. But to understand the action you have to understand what happened. I explained it to them, I told them that I was guilty. Okay, but if I explain what really happened… They should at least go to the site and check if I’m right or if I’m lying. They don’t go that fast on a MotoGP bike, so they should listen a little more to what the riders have to say. It’s a complaint I make, we all complain in the security commission but they don’t listen to us”.
Logically, Johann Zarco ‘s perspective is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Espargaró’s, the Frenchman “warmed up” with the action and came to label it as “criminal”.
“He was very close! I’ve seen that he went long, but I didn’t expect him to come back like he did”, explained the Frenchman at the end of the day.
“I was on a lap where I was trying to do well and I had to turn off the throttle to avoid him. We can’t close our eyes in these situations, because I know that for this kind of thing some would call it a criminal, so I couldn’t say ‘I close I kept my eyes on this one, because I was even scared. It was hot,” Zarco justified filing a claim with the Race Directorate.