Jorge Lorenzo believes the blame for aggressive riding in MotoGP lies with series officials rather than riders, as the current sanctions are not a sufficient enough deterrent.
The debate over MotoGP penalties has been reignited following a controversial Argentine Grand Prix, where reigning champion Marc Marquez was punished for clashes with Aleix Espargaro and Valentino Rossi.
The Rossi incident sanction took Marquez out of the points, but there have been calls for further post-race repercussions and it was suggested that Marquez be put “on probation”.
But when asked at the following race in Austin whether the current penalties were too lax, three-time champion Lorenzo lamented that it took a major controversy for the matter to come up.
“Like always, it’s always something needed big or medium-big to happen to take action, to change something,” he said.
“It shouldn’t be like that, in my opinion. But life is not the way you would like it to be. Life is like sometimes that. To change something, something big must happen.
“Looks like now we have to do something because of the actions of Marc with Aleix and Valentino. This should [have happened] before.
“In a dangerous sport, we need to protect the rider. [It’s] one thing is to be crazy, when you are making one lap and you are alone, but when you are putting the other riders at risk [it] is a completely different story. And the referee or the race direction should penalise strongly these actions.”
The Spaniard then argued that competitors were not to blame for riding aggressively if the system in place did not penalise them sufficiently.
“It’s not the rider’s fault. It’s race direction’s fault, race direction could give hard penalties and next time they [riders] don’t make these actions.
“It’s always race direction’s fault.”
MotoGP's stewarding structure was revamped following the Marquez/Rossi Sepang clash fallout of 2015, and the current panel is made up of two FIM stewards as well as race director Mike Webb.
Lorenzo conceded that the fairness of a penalty was often down to “interpretation, like in soccer. If you support a rider or a soccer team, never it's too much”.
He stressed, however: “Sometimes you have to act strong to protect the riders who don’t do nothing. Sometimes the rider who does nothing is the one that gets kicked off [the bike].”
Espargaro, who clashed with Marquez but also with Danilo Petrucci in Argentina, backed up Lorenzo's viewpoint.
“I've said it already and we'll talk with race direction [on Friday], but Danilo Petrucci has made eight riders crash over the past three years. I think that's too many,” Espargaro said.
“I have nothing against Danilo, but he nearly made me crash in Argentina and it's a lot of incidents. Things like that need to be punished.
“They have to make the rules more strict and more detailed. We have to try between all of us, the riders and the media, to calm things down because this is racing, and these things happen and we have to try to bring peace.
“But it can't happen that two equal moves get different penalties, and it shouldn't happen that some riders who have crashed into eight or nine rivals have got away with it when in the past some riders would get a race ban for much less.
“We have to improve that."
Additional reporting by Oriol Puigdemont