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How MotoGP’s Sprint Races Are Shifting the Standings

Written by Jenna Post, Edited by Meghana Sree

Sprint race podium at the Italian Grand Prix; Image credits - Steve Wobser/Getty Images.

The 2023 MotoGP season is officially over halfway through, with this past weekend’s Catalan Grand Prix shuffling the championship standings yet again. This season has been like no other with sprint races held at every Grand Prix on the calendar, following the successful introduction of these half-distance races in Formula 1.

By providing half the usual points to the first nine riders across the chequered line, this gives the opportunity to take away a maximum of 37 points across a race weekend, opposed to the usual 25 points for a race win. Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia, Pramac’s Jorge Martin, and most recently, Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro have each been able to take this haul of points by winning both the Sprint and the Race; Bagnaia on more than one occasion.

But how different would the current leaderboard look, without the additional points from these sprint races?

How would the 2023 MotoGP standings look without sprints?

Across the standings, unsurprisingly, most riders would maintain their current position or move up or down one or two places. But to begin with, it can probably go without saying — Bagnaia would still be leading the championship. Bagnaia would maintain a decent point deficit to not Martin, who would slip down the order to third, but to VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi. Even with Bagnaia’s most recent DNF at Catalan, he would still have a 28 point lead on Bezzecchi.

Aleix Espargaro and Johann Zarco, both on 113 points, would move up one to fourth and fifth in the standings; consequently demoting Brad Binder to sixth. Alex Marquez and Fabio Quartararo would move ahead to ninth and tenth place respectively, taking over Jack Miller who would fall to 11th. Fabio Di Giannantonio would overtake Miguel Olivera and injured Alex Rins to stand in 14th place, while Oliveria would drop one place to 15th and Rins 16th.

Out of the entire grid, it is Marc Marquez who would be the rider to drop the most places. Marqeuz would descend to 23rd on the leaderboard from his current 19th place while Pol Espargaro would also fall four places to 28th. Prior to Marquez’s successful sprint and race finishes at Catalan, with removal of the sprint points it meant he would have dropped nine places in standings down to 28th, with Espargaro ahead in 27th. It should be noted this past weekend was only Marquez’s second race finish of the season so far.

The current MotoGP standings

Espargaro’s drop would move Joan Mir up to 24th with his total of five points; acquired in the opening round at Portimao. This past weekend at Catalunya was Mir’s first race finish since round one, including sprints.

The overall conclusion is that these sprints, in reality, don’t have that much effect on where riders sit on the leaderboard. The dominant would continue to dominate, and those further down would remain in that vicinity. This is all with the assumption that each Grand Prix would have played out the same as they have, but there are some things to consider here as well.

While these sprint races give fans additional excitement each race weekend and a reason to tune into the Saturday broadcast, they also increase the likelihood of a rider injuring — of which we have seen exactly that.

2023's sprint races have witnessed plenty of riders getting injured; Image credits - Steve Wobser/Getty Images

In a perfect scenario, without the sprints, Enea Bastianini wouldn’t have been injured at the beginning of the season and would not have missed the next five grand prix’s as a result. Would Bastianini’s fate have played out differently? Would he have been in contention for the world championship alongside teammate Bagnaia?

Rins, who continues to recover from his crash at Mugello back in May, would still be on the grid competing and Mir would not have missed round two at Argentina. Keep in mind, regardless of having missed the last six races, Rins is still the leading Honda rider — currently sitting in 15th place, two places ahead of LCR Honda teammate Takaaki Nakagami.

And now with the most recent incidents at Catalan leaving both Bastianini and Bagnaia injured, it has been announced that Bastianini will miss the next three rounds which includes San Marino this weekend and the following Indian and Japanese Grands Prix. Bagnaia is expected to race at Misano, having miraculously escaped any serious injuries after high siding and having his legs run over by Binder on lap one of Sunday’s race.

Over half the grid have suffered injuries since the opening round at Portimao, and while not all were sprint related, this proves just how intense this season has been for riders. These statistics can’t help but raise questions regarding rider safety and the new MotoGP format. While this new format has been widely welcomed by fans, it brings a stark reminder to just how dangerous this sport can be.

Nonetheless, these sprint races continue to contribute point-wise for riders, and may well be the final contributing factor to where riders finish in the standings at the end of the season.


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