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MotoGP British GP

10 things we learned from the 2023 MotoGP British GP

MotoGP swung back into action at Silverstone and provided plenty of drama, action and intrigue both on and off the track. From the rider market latest to big names who returned to action, here are the key talking points from this year’s British Grand Prix

Jack Miller, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

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MotoGP’s return from its summer break did not disappoint, as a dramatic weekend concluded with a thrilling British Grand Prix.

The rider market saga kicked off proceedings at Silverstone, with news of Alex Rins replacing Franco Morbidelli at Yamaha in 2024 opening up more rumours about bike swaps.

On track, Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro put in a stunning charge from 12th on the grid to steal victory in the grand prix from Francesco Bagnaia with a daring last-lap overtake. But woes for rivals allowed Bagnaia to move 41 points clear in the standings, strengthening his position as the rider to beat as the championship enters its second phase.

The Japanese manufacturers continued to struggle, but there appeared to be some light at the end of the tunnel for Marc Marquez at least.

Pol Espargaro made his race comeback for Tech3 after four months on the sidelines recovering from serious injury, putting in a heroic effort to just get through the weekend and come away with some points.

Elsewhere, race direction decisions drew the ire of riders, while the implementation of a new rule proved clunky.

Here are the 10 things we learned from the 2023 MotoGP British GP.

1. Aleix puts ambition aside to win at Silverstone

Aleix Espargaro recorded just his second MotoGP win at the weekend

Aleix Espargaro recorded just his second MotoGP win at the weekend

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Aleix Espargaro’s thrilling overtake (having almost crashed earlier in the tour) on the inside of Francesco Bagnaia at the Maggotts complex on the final lap of the British GP will go down as one of the highlights of the racing year.

It was a brave move to cap off an excellent ride for the Aprilia runner, who came from 12th on the grid to register his second career grand prix victory at the venue where his Aprilia dream really started to blossom two years ago.

After the breakout of 2022, much more was expected of Aprilia and Espargaro this season. Prior to the summer break, the marque had just two grand prix podiums to its credit, Espargaro getting his first at Assen after a track limits penalty for Brad Binder.

Espargaro admitted after the British GP that ambitions were too high for 2023 after a strong pre-season, and that led to him making more mistakes.

“At the beginning of the season the expectation was too high, on myself and on the team,” he said. “So, I made too many mistakes; I crashed in Argentina, I crashed in America, I lost a lot of points. I had good speed, many Fridays, many sessions in the dry I was close to Pecco, leading.

“But it doesn’t matter, you have to be fast on Sunday. So, for one reason or another, I was not able to really match my speed with the results. And obviously, we don’t have the points we deserve.”

Putting ambition to one side appears to have done the trick, and perhaps now Aprilia can really kick into gear in the second half of the season. LD

2. Bagnaia rode like a champion, even if he doesn’t care about proving a point

It might not have been a win, but Bagnaia made a massive stride towards the 2023 MotoGP title at Silverstone

It might not have been a win, but Bagnaia made a massive stride towards the 2023 MotoGP title at Silverstone

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Francesco Bagnaia’s Silverstone weekend was a mixed affair, with a mystifying issue in the wet sprint leaving him without points for the first time this season on a Saturday down in 14th. But he and Ducati bounced back brilliantly on Sunday.

Leading for much of the 20-lap race, a lack of traction in the closing stages meant he could do nothing to stop Espargaro from taking a hard-earned win away from him.

However, a crash for Marco Bezzecchi and Jorge Martin finishing sixth has allowed Bagnaia to go 41 points clear in the standings in a race where a mistake was all too easy to make. That has been a sin of Bagnaia’s he is slowly overcoming, even if he doesn’t feel has anything to prove in situations like this.

“I’m not thinking ever that I have to demonstrate to anyone our potential because I know perfectly what I can do, what our team can do, what Ducati can do,” he said. “So, I’m just trying to work well, to prepare perfectly for the race and don’t have any surprises in the races. This is something that has changed compared to last year.” LD

3. Quartararo’s Yamaha embarrassment continues

Quartararo and Yamaha plunged to new lows at Silverstone

Quartararo and Yamaha plunged to new lows at Silverstone

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Having taken his maiden world title in 2021 and fighting for wins last year, of which he took three, Fabio Quartararo has clearly cemented himself as one of the MotoGP stars of today.

But you’d think otherwise from looking at his results this year, with Yamaha’s M1 proving a difficult beast to tame.

In fact, the Frenchman concedes that riders at the Japanese manufacturers – Yamaha and Honda, who are having an even more torrid time – are being embarrassed by their machinery.

Having finished 21st in the 10-lap sprint, Quartararo said: “Well, of course. I mean, if you check, now it’s more the European bikes than the Japanese bikes, but there is not one [Japanese manufacturer rider] on top and the others bottom.

“All of us are down, so for sure we are doing something wrong. But especially from my side starting that far down, we will have to do something totally different tomorrow.

“We have nothing to lose and my priority now is to try to improve, to be more in front and make a step forward in the coming races, where normally in the second half of the season is where we drop down.”

His woes continued on Sunday, tangling with VR46 rider Luca Marini while running seventh and losing the front of his fairing. He went on to finish 15th of the 17 riders to cross the line, having started last, and despite glimmers of hope, he does not believe he could have fought for a top-five position. MW

4. Pol’s comeback pain shows his determination

Pol Espargaro made his first MotoGP outing in almost five months

Pol Espargaro made his first MotoGP outing in almost five months

Photo by: GasGas Factory Racing

Taking part in your first race weekend after a comeback from injury is always hard, let alone when those injuries are as severe as those suffered by Pol Espargaro in a horrific FP2 crash at the season-opening Portuguese Grand Prix.

Having sustained multiple back and jaw fractures after hitting an unprotected tyre barrier, it was a long road back to MotoGP for the Tech3 KTM rider, so it’s unsurprising that the weekend left him exhausted.

“I’m cooked. Well, after 10 laps I was cooked,” he said after Sunday’s race. “After the first 10 laps, I was completely burned out. I think the first 10 laps I find myself behind Augusto and I could follow him for the first few laps, and I think that was the problem.

“I asked of myself a little bit more and my body just said ‘enough, you’ve done enough’. It completely locked, the neck is completely locked, I couldn’t do more.

“I was thinking about retiring, but first of all I wanted to finish but then I saw some guys pitting in when it started to rain in sector four, so that was a present that they were giving to me. So, I just continued and took some points.”

And take some points he did, finishing a very respectable 12th to score four points on his return to the premier class. Having struggled both physically and mentally in Saturday’s sprint too, even having to take an hour nap between sessions, it was an admirable comeback from such a determined rider.

Though his ride for 2024 may be under threat (more on that later), Espargaro’s sheer willpower is something to be commended, especially given he is “far, very far away from where I want to be” when it comes to fitness. MW

5. The real Marc Marquez has been put away, at least for now

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

No one was quite sure what Marc Marquez would re-emerge from the five-week summer break following his bruising, demoralising start to the 2023 campaign.

While questions about his Honda future continue, even if he said at Silverstone that “my intention” is to remain for 2024, the ‘real’ Marc Marquez has been put away for now while he figures things out.

He took a new approach for the British GP, shunning results and riding purely on feeling: if he felt good, he’d push a bit, if not then he’d keep it sensible. It meant his sprint result was a lowly 18th but was on for a top 10 in the grand prix before he collided with Enea Bastianini in an “unlucky” late incident.

Starting the Silverstone weekend with the bike he raced in Portugal, Marquez is yet to find a base set-up to build on. However, after the grand prix, there was a positive to take out of the round.

“I’m happy about the weekend because the target was to try to rebuild a bit the confidence and try to find the base,” Marquez said. “I rebuilt the confidence, but to find the base, we need more races, more race tracks, different situations. But the weekend was solid, and stable, also I controlled myself. The approach of the weekend was very different. I forget the times, forget everything.”

Now Honda must deliver him with a 2024 prototype at September’s Misano test that will elevate that confidence level. LD

6. “Strong soldier” Zarco could get true KTM redemption as Honda switch looms

Johann Zarco, Pramac Racing

Johann Zarco, Pramac Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Johann Zarco could get a full-time Honda shot in 2024 as links to LCR to replace Yamaha-bound Alex Rins emerged during the British GP.

The 33-year-old contested three races for LCR at the end of a 2019 campaign in which he was kicked out of KTM having announced mid-season that he would be ending his two-year contract early - something he told Motosprint several years ago was “not entirely my choice”.

Zarco could have been a factory Honda rider at the start of 2019 had his manager not inked that fateful deal with KTM, where the Frenchman struggled to match his podium form from his Tech3 Yamaha days the two seasons prior – managing just one top 10 on the RC16.

On the face of it, moving to Honda now threatens much the same: Marc Marquez has scored 15 points in 2023, Joan Mir just five, while it’s a bike that wore down Pol Espargaro to return to KTM for this year and killed Jorge Lorenzo’s career in 2019.

But Zarco believes the maturity he has gained since 2019 should stand him in better stead for a Honda switch, leading to a possible true redemption for his KTM nightmare.

“I would be proud to be this guy because I could not make this work well in KTM,” he said of helping develop the Honda. “Maybe my feedback was good for KTM, but the results I was having I was not ready to be in this position. So, I made the decision to come back to Ducati. But in the case of having this choice, sure the maturity is not the same [as it was in 2019]. So, we must keep the options open.”

Zarco also stressed that his results were good enough to warrant remaining with Ducati and Pramac, even if that looks unlikely as Marco Bezzecchi gets set to take his ride. LD

7. KTM’s Acosta placement situation far from resolved

KTM may need to shuffle its pack to make room for Acosta

KTM may need to shuffle its pack to make room for Acosta

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

KTM appears to be in quite the bind for 2024. With rising prodigy Pedro Acosta confirmed to be graduating from Moto2, where he is currently second in the standings, the Austrian manufacturer will need to find a space for him.

Both factory seats are occupied, by Brad Binder and Jack Miller, which leaves the two Tech3 GasGas-branded KTM seats, currently taken by 2022 Moto2 champion Augusto Fernandez and Pol Espargaro, who raced in his first full grand prix weekend of the year at Silverstone.

Conventional wisdom put Fernandez on the chopping board to make way for Acosta, given he didn’t have a two-year deal to hand. However, he told Autosport last Thursday that his deal for next year is already done, adding that he is “really happy” to be staying with the team.

So, with three riders for two seats, what will KTM’s solution be, especially given their bid to acquire two more grid slots has failed for now?

Well, it looks like Espargaro could be the big loser here, nudged aside into a test rider role in lieu of a better option.

The Spaniard has accepted he could be moved aside and said over the weekend that he will “not hesitate to move apart if there was an upgrade, because what I want is to see the factory shining.”

KTM’s musical chairs approach to seats has long since been unpredictable, but hopefully, more clarity will come next time out at the Austrian Grand Prix, its home race. MW

8. Race direction decisions under fire again at Silverstone

Saturday's British MotoGP action was a wet and wild affair

Saturday's British MotoGP action was a wet and wild affair

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

It was a new weekend, but the age-old criticisms of MotoGP’s race direction continued – this time amid wet weather conditions which during FP3 and qualifying on Saturday morning.

Poleman Alex Marquez was left unhappy at the amount of grass deposited on track from crashes in Q2 at several corners, with both second-place starter Marco Bezzecchi and Marquez going down, as did Francesco Bagnaia, Fabio Di Giannantonio and Luca Marini.

The Gresini Ducati rider said the session should have been red-flagged to clean it up, adding: “I saw there were many crashes, a lot of grass going into the corner where Marco crashed, also some other corners.

“So, I don’t know if it was a world championship or a regional championship [we were riding in]. This is not acceptable. When it’s like this, there needs to be a red flag and they need to clean the track.”

Reigning world champion Bagnaia concurred, and said after the sprint race: “Already from FP2 it was a red flag, I think. In case of [practice] session, it’s ok to let us go.

“But the spray, and considering my crash, I was already in front [of the rest] – like Marco’s – but if that was a race, you would go through three or four riders for sure. So, it was a bit on the limit during the session, but was a red flag if the race was in this condition.”

Aleix Espargaro, too, was critical, saying: “I'm very, very angry. I don’t understand what today's race control did at all.”

He added: “I talked with them after the qualifying. They said to me ‘100%, if the conditions are like this then the race won’t start’. I said ‘Okay, and then why did qualifying start?’ It was impossible on the straights, there was aquaplaning everywhere, and we saw many crashes.” MW

9. Mid-season regulation changes need more thought

A MotoGP tyre rule change has been installed for safety, but is it set to cause more risk?

A MotoGP tyre rule change has been installed for safety, but is it set to cause more risk?

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

There were two regulation changes at the British Grand Prix. The Friday format had been tweaked so that only FP2 (now called Practice, while the third practice of the weekend is FP2… yeah, we don’t know either) counted towards the qualifying groups.

The second has potentially further-reaching consequences. From Silverstone, the new Tyre Pressure Monitoring System was put into action, which measures the front and rear pressures of all riders.

All riders must run to a front minimum pressure of 1.9 bar for at least 50% of the grand prix and 30% of the sprint, while the rear minimum is 1.7 bar. This has been a rule all year but has not been officially regulated until now.

Riders have spent all year raising safety concerns about something that was ostensibly meant to improve safety, with a number of them stating at Silverstone the front tyre loses grip when it hits 2.0 bar and above.

While the system is integrated, penalties will be issued on a sliding scale beginning with a warning and then time penalties for each subsequent transgression.

Ultimately, because the sprint was wet and the grand prix was declared flag-to-flag, the rule didn’t apply.

However, the system is yet to be automated – as was the whole point – and the race director randomly selects riders to check. None of this was actually fully explained until FP1 when Michelin motorsport boss Piero Taramasso was interviewed on the world feed.

Given the confusion surrounding its implementation and the fact the system isn’t fully operational, it has made MotoGP look a bit silly. Perhaps it’s time to bench it again until it has been fully developed for the 2024 campaign. LD

10. Britain’s MotoGP hopes boosted as Dixon shuns WSBK move

Jake Dixon, Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Jake Dixon, Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

It wasn’t a homecoming that went to plan for Jake Dixon, but Britain’s newest grand prix winner has at least given fans hope of cheering on a compatriot on the MotoGP grid in the next few years.

While Dixon had been linked to a MotoGP move in 2024 prior to the summer break, options are scarce and appear earmarked for others: Yamaha has already secured Alex Rins, Gresini has its eye on Tony Arbolino, VR46 is likely to welcome Franco Morbidelli, Pramac is set sign Marco Bezzecchi and LCR could either take Iker Lecuona or Johann Zarco as Takaaki Nakagami has a strong claim to keep his seat.

Dixon told Autosport at Silverstone that he’d had World Superbike interest, but the former British Superbike star has no interest in entertaining that.

Should he continue his strengthening Moto2 form for the rest of this season and through next, a space will open up for the Briton – not least with MotoGP keen to find ways to engage a dwindling UK audience.

INTERVIEW: Why British MotoGP fans should get behind its newest grand prix winner

“At the end of the day, my dream is to go to MotoGP and be there,” Dixon said. “But, it needs to be right and I need to be given the opportunity. If I get given one opportunity to go, I’ll show what I can do. But if I’m not to go there…. I had interest in World Superbikes, but it’s not a thing [for me].

“I’ve done all the hard work here, to switch championships makes no sense. So, if I’m to stay in Moto2 for another year, so be it. It’s not that I don’t want to do that, but my dream is to be in MotoGP. If I stay in Moto2, I feel my loyalty is to this team. I owe it to them because they gave me the opportunity not once but twice. That’s massive. If the MotoGP thing doesn’t come off, then we need to aim to be not just one-time world champion but twice in Moto2.” LD

MotoGP heads on to Austria next in two weeks' time

MotoGP heads on to Austria next in two weeks' time

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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