“I’m worried, there’s so much pressure on the drivers right now”

Wilco Zeelenberg | © RNF Racing

On Racesport.nl we have a number of regular columnists this season who share their vision on current events in motorsport every week. Thanks to their position, these leading names in Dutch motorsport can provide a unique insight into what goes on behind the scenes in particular.

This week Wilco Zeelenberg is our columnist. The former Grand Prix and World Supersport rider is now team manager of the CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team. In this column he shares his opinion on the new MotoGP format and where this new concept has led so far.

A lot has happened since the Austin Grand Prix. We came back quite satisfied in terms of results, the speed of both drivers was also good there. That Raúl dropped out of there because of the stuckness ride height device It was very bummed, that has now been resolved. Miguel drove a very strong race there, especially after coming back from his injury, fifth place was an excellent result. In addition, the Circuit of The Americas is not his favorite so it was good to see that he could go with the fast guys.

Given the speed of both drivers in Austin, we were of course very much looking forward to Jerez. The Sprint race went better there too, unfortunately we were unlucky with the red flag because we didn’t have a new medium-compound rear tire left. With Miguel’s fifth place in that race, we had a lot of confidence going into Sunday’s race but, as we know, we couldn’t get past the second corner. Admittedly his start was bad and he should have moved further forward, but we are now seeing a lot more crashes in general.

Why something needs to be done about the new MotoGP format
Because of the new format, we are now seeing more and more such incidents and we are also constantly being discussed whether or not an incident is a penalty. It all stems from the added stress this new format brings. We saw that again on Sunday in Le Mans, luckily it all ended well this time. I’m not happy about that and I’m also worried about it. I’m not really afraid of crashes, but we’re seeing way too many crashes now and something is going to happen that won’t make anyone happy. To date, little has been done with it and the organization acts as if ‘it belongs’.

Fabio Quartararo definitely made a mistake in that incident with Miguel because he went for a hole that wasn’t there. I don’t want to accuse any specific driver, and luckily we’ve stayed clear of this sort of thing with penalties and things like that, but it’s just because of the new format and you see a lot more incidents like this now. You notice that everyone is all worked up in the first 2-3 laps to make up positions, otherwise you just ride at the back. With the current format, the pressure is on from Friday morning and continues until Sunday afternoon. It worries me, as the crash of Luca Marini and Alex Márquez was of course very similar to the fatal accident of Marco Simoncelli: Marini lost the front and ended up staying on it after which he was hit by a rider behind him. In addition, there was also the incident of Pecco Bagnaia and Maverick Viñales, I don’t want to blame anyone for that and it can all happen, but in my opinion it happens too often now. It is time for the organization to step forward and look at the state of affairs after five Grands Prix with Sprint races, the new concept of Friday and Saturday. I think if you asked everyone in the paddock, the majority wouldn’t be happy about it. Although the Sprint race is of course very beautiful and spectacular, I think something needs to be adjusted.

For example, it is already a step in the right direction if the first training on Friday morning does not count for placement in Q2, but things like that are not even thought about or discussed. The races are good at the moment, but every time eight, nine or ten drivers drop out, only twelve remain. That is disappointing and worrying. I don’t want to complain afterwards, so I would now like to see the organization open its eyes and take a good look at what exactly is going on. In addition to MotoGP, you also see big bangs in Moto2 and Moto3, they have also been given less time to prepare as a result of the format adjustment. They have less track time and not even a warm-up so I think we all need to evaluate this together. There is little or no listening to drivers and teams. It is also important not to forget that after a crash with a MotoGP machine you can quickly have a lot of damage, also financially.

The riders in the infirmary
It wasn’t a simple case of pumped-up forearms for Raúl, there was more to it. They had to cut open no less than nine muscles that were not okay when there are normally only one or two, so a week was too short for him to recover. He had no pain while riding but just not enough strength in his arm to turn the machine over, we expect that to be completely resolved in Mugello. For Miguel that will still be a question mark, at the moment he can’t use his arm yet so we have to wait and see how his recovery goes.

Look at the championship
I hope it will be an exciting championship, everyone is looking forward to it. It alternates quite a bit with Bagnaia winning one weekend and crashing the next, the same goes for Bezzecchi which means they are now almost tied. They are clearly the two drivers fighting for the title at the moment, I hope there will be a few more guys like Jorge Martin who is also not far off. It is to be hoped that not one driver will walk away in the championship, you can see that the stress is high during the races. It is therefore to be hoped that everyone will also be intact this year, especially after the crashes we have already seen.

It is a pity that Maverick was driven off in Le Mans, Pecco should have held back for a while. He was sitting there on the right and the next corner was left, with so many laps to go there was still plenty of time to overtake. But you can’t blame anyone, as I say there is too much pressure on the drivers with this new concept and you get these kinds of mistakes. Last year you saw that less, there is now so much pressure on the drivers that they simply misjudge certain things.

Marc fell off while running in second place, so how bad is that Honda really? After not having driven for five races, he is again the one who has to do it for Honda. You see one or two moments every lap where he can also be wrong, so he is still driving over the limit. They are doing everything they can to come back so I hope it takes a while so that we as European manufacturers keep driving at the front 😉.

See you in four weeks
Wilco Zeelenberg

9. Column Glenn van Straalen: “I have grown to a higher level together with the EAB Racing Team, we can still show great things”
8. Column Michael van der Mark: “It went so fast, I immediately knew it was wrong”
7. Column Collin Veijer: This is how I prepare a Grand Prix weekend on a new circuit
6. Column Wilco Zeelenberg: “I wonder if the intended goal of the Sprint races will be achieved”
5. Column Glenn van Straalen: This is how I ride at the TT Circuit Assen
4. Column Michael van der Mark: “The aggression in MotoGP can be explained”
3. Column Collin Veijer: “The goal is to become the best rookie”
2. Column Wilco Zeelenberg: “We don’t have to be inferior to anyone”
1. Column Glenn van Straalen: “The championship is still not right!”

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