Rainy Red Flag Ending for MotoGP Japan 2023
The Japanese Grand Prix proved unpredictable for Team ENEOS as rain fell lightly on the grid before starting the warm-up lap, adding tension before the 24-lap race. Weather conditions continued to worsen, eventually causing the Race and restart to be red flagged; MotoGP officials decided the grid positions of the restart would count as the final result. Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli held their respective 11th and 18th places at the time of the red flag but gained a position when a competitor failed to make it to the restart, giving Quartararo five additional championship points.
Coming off a third place finish in India, El Diablo started from P15 but climbed as high as ninth in the first sectors by taking calculated risks. Although he dropped a few positions during the second half, he crossed the finish line for the first time in second place as the majority of the field went in to switch bikes. The Frenchman came in a lap later and rejoined on his second run in 18th place. Adapting quickly to the bike, tires and wet track conditions, he emerged 14th despite the chaos caused by swapping bikes, and continued to make strides as conditions worsened. Quartararo reached 11th by the time the red flags came out.
“We gave ourselves a challenge,” Quartararo said. “We have to look on the bright side despite the conditions and strategy we took.”
Teammate Morbidelli took off from P16 and decided to stay on slicks for as long as possible, which allowed him to temporarily hold third place on lap 3. But by lap 4 the riders that made a pit stop to switch bikes soon caught up, and after his own swap he resumed the race in 17th. Unfortunately the Italian was too far behind to engage in any battles, and was 18th when the race was red flagged.
“We tried a different strategy to stay out with slicks and hoped that the rain would stop, but it didn’t,” explained Morbidelli. “My speed was good on the wets but I was too far behind.”
Following the Japanese GP, Quartararo moved up to tenth in the overall standings with 111 points; Morbidelli remained 12th with 77 points. Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP are sixth in the team championship with 188 points, and Yamaha is fifth in the manufacturer standings with 131 points.