As we continue to learn more about the complaint lodged against Mission Winnow Ducati by Aprilia, Honda, KTM, and Suzuki for using possibly illegal aerodynamic parts on the bike that won the Qatar Grand Prix in Doha, it seems the accusation is just the tip of the iceberg that hides a deeper motive.
Information has been emerging that has exposed a situation that nearly “everyone” knew would happen at or soon after the inaugural race of the MotoGP 2019 World Championship. “Everyone” included not only the reported accusers but also championship promoter Dorna, the MotoGP technical director, and presumably the International Motorcycling Federation staff—all present in Qatar throughout the weekend.
In Qatar, the heads of Aprilia, Massimo Rivola, and of Suzuki, Davide Brivio, first informed the MotoGP technical director and later Gigi Dall’Igna, Ducati Corse director, that they believed the winglet fixed to the lower part of the swingarm was an aerodynamic element and not a simple channel of air directed to the rear tire as the Bologna manufacturer claimed.
Dall’Igna rejected this accusation, arguing this component was in line with Item 7 in the technical regulation amendments regarding aerodynamics that was sent to the teams on March 2. This item specifies that deflectors are allowed to divert water from the rear wheel in case of heavy rain, to cool the tire, or to deflect dirt from it. A series of requirements must be met to be legally used, such as being fixed to the swingarm, it cannot move autonomously, and it cannot generate any aerodynamic effect with respect to the ground.
However, Rivola and Brivio did not accept this justification and they let the MotoGP technical director know. Over the race weekend the warnings that an official protest would be raised if Ducati mounted that appendix on its bikes for the race were repeated. It seems the last one was announced on Sunday before the warm-up. Obviously Dorna was aware of what was happening.
The three factory Ducati riders, Andrea Dovizioso, Danilo Petrucci, and Jack Miller, went to the race with that deflector on their bikes—and the protest was triggered. The protest was signed by four of the five remaining manufacturers present in the championship. Yamaha did not sign the protest because it also had mounted a deflector on the lower part of the swingarm to decrease the amount of water that reached the rear tire at the last Valencia GP weekend, which was held under heavy rain.
The complaint was first rejected by those responsible for judging it, something the protesters had anticipated, as they automatically appealed by presenting technical documentation that, according to them, supports their argument regarding the winglets mounted on the Ducati.
The FIM commissioner declared himself unprepared to make a decision after the appeal, thereby diverting the matter to the Court of Appeal of the federation in Geneva. There are no fixed deadlines for that court to issue a ruling, but it is foreseeable that it will do so before the next GP that will take place in Argentina in two weeks.
These are the currently known facts about the confrontation between the factories present at MotoGP during the Qatar GP weekend. Things could have gone any other way, and yet this is how they played out.
Finally, in view of the facts, it is logical to question whether the riders were aware of what was happening among those responsible for their equipment. Did Dovizioso know his victory would be quarantined as soon as he crossed the finish line? Logic suggests that no, since it would not have made sense to introduce into the minds of the riders a distracting element that would not have contributed anything. That is a reasonable conclusion, but in this story it seems the situation was missing plenty of reason.