MotoGP introduces a two-race format for each Grand Prix for the first time this year – Sunday’s main race is joined by a sprint race on Saturday, which earns riders half the points for having half the normal race distance.
Despite this novelty for 2023, criticism has been felt – in particular from riders’ managers who argue for additional remuneration to riders expressed in contracts for the existence of the 21 sprint races that are part of this year’s calendar. However, this detail does not detract Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports, from the path set out with this new concept.
The Spaniard told AS newspaper that it is normal for criticism to be made: ‘I understand that there is criticism. I have always said that people are very conservative. The first big thing we did was to change from 500cc to MotoGP and that was huge. Then with Moto2 and Moto3, too, the same thing. And the single ECU… All the things we have changed have been criticized and, so far, we haven’t had to go back on any of them.’
That said, Ezpeleta assured that there is openness to backtrack if the effect of the new format is not as expected: ‘That doesn’t mean that, if we see that things don’t work out, we would have no problem going backwards. We have to innovate and think about what things can go better to get people hooked on our championship. We have to find a way and we are worried about the attention of the spectators in some places and what they are telling us now is that the attendance is increasing a lot. I don’t know if it’s just because of the sprint races, but we are clearly increasing the number of requests and bookings compared to last year.’
That said, the Dorna Sports CEO also admitted that the announcement of sprint races on the sidelines of last year’s Austrian GP did not go ideally: ‘We approached that press conference badly. We approached it defensively and it was the announcement of a great novelty. We approached it badly and I don’t understand why something that was an advantage for the World Championship, because of certain things, went wrong.’