To close up a grey area in the rulebook, MotoGP has enforced a minimum front and rear tyre pressure that riders must not run below for at least 30% of a sprint and 50% of a grand prix.
The rule came into force from the British Grand Prix in August when the new Tyre Pressure Management System was installed.
From the outset, riders were unhappy at the forced minimum front pressure being set at 1.88 bar (27.26psi), as it left them little margin to play with before the front became harder to manage once it went above 2.0 bar (29psi).
Riders have repeatedly noted how the pressure rises quickly when following other bikes, leading to more front tyre locking, while trying to set the right pressure for the type of race you might have opens the door for penalties.
Martin, who already has a warning for breaking the tyre pressure rule this year, believes riders cannot “ride at our 100%” because of this regulation.
“I mean, it’s a pity that we cannot ride at our 100% because of this rule,” he said at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
“It’s a pity. I don’t know how to say it, but I think this rule… they need to try to understand from our side and try to make it [the minimum front tyre pressure] lower because at the end of the day we are not seeing real races.
“We are seeing technical races, because if my technician puts the wrong tyre pressure, then I cannot push and I cannot show my potential.
“I think this year it’s like this, but next year if you do it one time [break the minimum limit] you are [thrown] out of the race.
“It’s kind of destroying the racing style and they need to do something, because next year it will be a big disaster.”
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team
Aleix Espargaro has already been outspoken about the tyre rule, but noted on Sunday at the Malaysian GP that he is having to be more conservative with his own pressure settings out of fear of getting a second penalty, having copped three seconds in Thailand.
“Actually, yes, for sure. If not, I will get six seconds [penalty] and then 12,” he said when asked by Motorsport.com if he has been starting with higher front tyre pressures to avoid penalties.
“I hate this rule, it’s going to ruin this championship.”
KTM’s Brad Binder believes the rule, which was brought in on safety grounds, is anything but safe and says the riders “would appreciate” Michelin lowering the minimum limit.
“The thing is, for me it’s 10 times more unsafe when you are above two bar [of pressure],” Binder said.
“Honestly, the feeling is that you could hit somebody at any time because you have these massive locks.
“And when you get to the edge of the tyre you don’t turn.
“So, you see these guys going wide, cutting back and we’re all over the show. I understand that what they [Michelin] say that if it’s too low it can come off the rim.
“But I’m yet to see one, and I don’t want to, of course. But not just me, I’m sure every rider would appreciate if they dropped that [minimum pressure] a little bit.”
Espargaro noted that the riders constantly raise this point with Michelin and MotoGP’s rulemakers, but so far nothing has been done.
“We do this every single weekend [ask for the front minimum pressure to be lowered]; with Michelin, Piero [Taramasso, Michelin motorsport boss], with Carlos Ezpeleta, to Carmelo [Ezpeleta].
“Every meeting we just speak about this. There is no chance they change it. I have full confidence in Piero, but I’ve raced in this championship 15 years and I’ve never seen a problem with the front tyre.
“He say ‘you were close to exploding the [front] tyre’. Ok, he’s a million times better [placed to speak] than me. But I saw rear tyres exploding, never front.”
After the Malaysian GP, title contenders Martin and Francesco Bagnaia now sit on one warning each for running under the minimum front tyre pressure.
This has opened the door for the possibility that the championship could be decided in the next two rounds by a time penalty.