If you didn’t see what happened during last weekends Catalan MotoGP, you’ll have no doubt seen the social media backlash. Monster Energy Yamaha Rider, and World Championship leader, Fabio Quartararo completed the last handful of laps with his leathers unzipped. Right down. Nobody really knows why they were unzipped, and Fabio won’t say. You could say he’s keeping his cards close to his bare chest. He also lobbed his chest protector out but he was still allowed to continue. So what went on, and why did he start getting undressed half way through a MotoGP race? And why wasn’t he black flagged? This is my highly speculative assessment of what I think went on…
First of all, let’s examine why his leathers were down in the first place. He either unzipped them himself, or the Alpinestars fairies came and did it for him. My money is on the former. I thought, at first, it was maybe a broken zip caused by the inadvertent inflation of his airbag. But the fact that he managed to zip it up after the flag would suggest there was nothing wrong with it. Why did he not just zip it straight back up…? We’ll come to that later.
So I’m saying Quartararo unzipped them himself. Why? Well perhaps the airbag went off and he needed to release the pressure in order to breathe. Maybe he had a slide and it inflated, but it could have just been a complete malfunction. I think the plan was to undo the suit, whip his chest protector out and zip them back up. Just so that he can breathe. Or was it nothing to do with the airbag? Did a wasp find it’s way into his suit? Was he performing a bit of mid-race pest control? It’s happened before.
Anyway, regardless of why it was down, why didn’t he just zip it back up? Well it’s not as easy as that when they’re full of fast moving air. He’d of had to slow down to about 30mph to stop the sides billowing out enough to zip it up; and he obviously wouldn’t have wanted to do that. So he didn’t bother and just cracked on.
And what about Race Control? What planet were they on when all this was kicking off? Was the Race Director doing a coffee run? It seemed as though nobody dared make the decision that needed making. Because everybody that I’ve asked about it has said it should have been an immediate black flag. And it definitely should have been, rather than the 3 second penalty he received, post-race.
The black flag wouldn’t have been as a punishment for breaking the rules; rather solely on safety grounds. Imagine if the lad had crashed with his leathers undone with no chest protector and an airbag that’s unarmed. Forget about the rulebook (which, by the way, does say your leathers must be done up), the lad’s life is on the line. Mugello, a week previously, reminded us of how dangerous motorcycle racing can be, with the sad passing of Jason Dupasquier. After that, to see Quartararo doing 200mph half-dressed is taking the piss a little bit.
And to be fair to the lad he’s not going to come in off his own back, is he? As has been suggested by others, all of the racers on that grid would ride stark bollock naked if they needed to, and there was a couple of points on the line. And if Catalunya was anything to go by, they might even get away with it. No, Race Control failed miserably on that one. They should have grown some balls and got the lad off the track straight away; regardless of who he is or where he is in the championship.
The next question is why is Quartararo not telling us what the bloody hell went on. He’s being very coy about the whole thing. Well I would imagine there was a gentleman from Alpinestars waiting for him in his pitbox directly after the race. Said gentleman probably reminded Fabio of the section in his A* contract that says he mustn’t say or do anything that brings the brand into disrepute; and that saying his airbag went off when it shouldn’t have done would be doing exactly that. He’d have also reminded Fabio that the 10,000 euro (that’s a figure plucked directly out of thin air, by the way) per round that Alpinestars pay him to wear their kit would stop. Immediately.
I might be completely wrong about the whole thing. Barking up the wrong tree in the wrong forest. But I don’t think we’ll ever find out the whole truth, so surely my conjecture is as good as anyone else’s.
What do you think happened?
UPDATE: Alpinestars have just released the following statement…
“Following Sunday’s MotoGP race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the Alpinestars’ Racing Development team commenced an investigation into the integrity of Fabio Quartararo’s racing suit located in the MotoGP paddock, the team found the suit to be in normal working order with all zippers and fasteners fully functioning. Furthermore, all the suit’s componentry, including the Tech-Air® Airbag System, was intact and fully functioning. Upon initial analysis post-race in the Alpinestars Racing Development truck. The Tech-Air® Airbag System did not deploy during the race, it functioned as expected, as there was not a crash situation. This is only a first assessment, to be further investigated once the suit is in the Alpinestars laboratory at Alpinestars headquarters, conducting all testing and analysis to understand more about the cause of what happened.”