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MotoGP Austrian GP

Pol Espargaro penalised for Marquez Austria MotoGP practice block

Tech3 GasGas rider Pol Espargaro has been handed a grid penalty for the MotoGP Austrian Grand Prix after blocking Marc Marquez in second practice.

Pol Espargaro, Tech3 GASGAS Factory Racing

Espargaro is competing in his second grand prix weekend since returning from a lengthy spell on the sidelines with serious injury.

Suffering multiple back and jaw fractures after an FP2 crash at the season-opener in Portugal, Espargaro was finally cleared to return at the British GP two weeks ago.

The Tech3 rider finished Friday's running at the Red Bull Ring in 15th but has been given a three-place grid penalty for Sunday's grand prix after blocking Honda's Marquez.

As Marquez was on a flying lap, he was forced to abort his effort after finding a touring Espargaro on the run down into Turn 4 in the closing stages of the session.

The stewards placed this incident under investigation, with Espargaro deemed to have been "disturbing another rider".

This moment ultimately cost Marquez a chance to fight for a direct place in Q2 for Saturday's qualifying, after the Spaniard ended practice in 13th.

A statement from the FIM stewards read: "On 18 August 2023 at 16:06:42 during the Practice session of the CryptoDATA Motorrad Grand Prix Von Osterreich, you [Espargaro] were observed to be riding slow only disturbing another rider at Turn 4.

Pol Espargaro, Tech3 GASGAS Factory Racing

Pol Espargaro, Tech3 GASGAS Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

"This contravenes the specific instructions given to MotoGP competitors and teams, disrupting the session, and is considered irresponsible riding. It is therefore an infringement of Article 1.21.2 of the FIM World Championship Grand Prix regulations.

"For the above reasons, FIM MotoGP stewards panel has imposed a three grid positions penalty for the CryptoDATA Motorrad Grand Prix Von Osterreich MotoGP race.

"Following the Penalty Protocols issued to teams, this action was deemed to be an incident of Type 2.b: Slow riding on line during last 10 minutes of practice session – disrupting another rider directly affecting progression into Q2.

"As a first offence for the season, the appropriate penalty in this case is three grid positions penalty."

Espargaro accepted full blame for the incident and says it was a misjudgement on his part based on the fact he's had very little bike time in 2023.

"I deserve it," he said of the penalty. "I talked with him [Marquez] and the problem is that you cannot understand how fast these bikes are coming.

"And when you are away for so long, you cannot coordinate the distance and the speed.

"So, I checked behind, I saw him coming, that's why I'm not on the line. But I expected him to overtake me faster.

"And because he didn't overtake me as I expected, I made the corner. I thought he had shut off, but actually he was coming fast. So, I miscalculated everything. It's just a matter of missing a lot of time on a MotoGP bike."

Under the current regulations, Espargaro's penalty will only be applied for the grand prix and will not affect his starting spot for Saturday's sprint.

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