What happened at Silverstone last weekend was serious enough to warrant deliberate reflection. It’s not about looking for guilty parties, because that’s a job for the judges, but it’s about looking for answers, which is one of the functions we are supposed to do as journalists. So let’s get to it without further delay.

THE FACTS

To center the subject, let’s look at a synopsis of the events. The sequence that led to the cancellation of the GP of the United Kingdom begins with Alex Rins crashing in FP4 on Saturday afternoon as a result of the accumulation of water on the track between turns 7 and 8. The drainage deficiency in Silverstone’s resurfacing on that part of the circuit ended up generating a collective crash. After Rins fell, Rabat, Morbidelli and some additional riders left the track. The one who got the worst of it was Tito, who being on the ground was hit by Franco’s sliding Honda. In the forceful impact, Spanish rider’s right leg was shattered.

DORNA’s mistake was to put the option of racing on Monday to a vote between the teams and each team put their interests before that of the GP. Carmelo Ezpeleta, as head of DORNA, should have set Monday as the new date of the race – period. There are situations that cannot be managed democratically, and this was a clear example.

The verification of the deficiency to drain the water in that part of the track and the forecast of heavy rain on race day led Race Direction to change the scheduled times on Sunday. To allow space for any changes, they decided to schedule the MotoGP race for 11:30 and the warm-up at 9:00. The weather forecast announced rain starting at 11…and it wasn’t wrong.


On a waterlogged track, the MotoGP riders went to the grid at the appropriate time. The images of the riders sliding each time they touched the throttle while heading toward the starting line showed how difficult the things were out there. After the events with Rabat the previous afternoon, starting the race in those conditions seemed tumultuous … And indeed, the riders refused to start … It was 12:22.
From there, the day went into a loop of postponing the start from hour to hour … And the rain continued to fall … Race management and promoters followed the weather by the minute. The situation became confused as the riders didn’t know what to do.: Eat something or not?  Take off their suits or not?  … And the spectators in the stands waited in the rain and cold for something to happen.


During that wait, DORNA proposed to the teams to postpone the race for Monday, but the lack of agreement between them – each with its own interests – aborted this plan.
At a certain point, there was a moment when the rain abated and the possibility of the riders returning to the track to evaluate the situation was put on the table. But by then, for the most part they were fed up, tired, some angry and others outraged. Yes, there were some who appealed to try, but at the Safety Commission meeting convened by the riders, the majority decided not to race and to put an end to a very unfortunate weekend … It was 4:00 PM … After waiting stoically for something to happen over 7 or 8 hours, the spectators returned home without having seen a single race.

If the official rainfall statistics on Silverstone are not wrong, from the execution of the resurfacing to the GP it rained about 50 days on that asphalt. Is anyone able to say that the lack of drainage in question occurred for the first time on this particular GP weekend?

Later, Loris Capirossi and Franco Uncini as members of the Safety Commission (and also responsible for the homologation of circuits in the case of the latter), and Mike Webb as race director of the championship, gave a press conference where they shared their explanations about what happened during the day. The Silverstone director also did so later.

RESPONSIBILITIES

Clearly the first cause for the cancellation of the UK GP was the resurfacing of the circuit. A resurfacing undertaken by the Silverstone Circuit at the request of MotoGP after the riders had demanded it following the GP of England in 2017. That is to say, it’s clear who the “bad guy” is, but he was a passive bad guy.
The next in the list of those responsible for the cancellation is the person or persons in charge of Silverstone. We are not going to discuss whether the lack of drainage caught the managers of the circuit “by surprise”. Doing so is an insult to anyone’s intelligence. If the official rainfall statistics on Silverstone are not wrong, from the execution of the resurfacing to the GP it rained about 50 days on that asphalt. Is anyone able to say that the lack of drainage in question occurred for the first time on this particular GP weekend? It seems rather unlikely.

Let’s continue. Obviously the party responsible for the homologation of the circuit for MotoGP races has their share of responsibility in what happened. In this case that part is Franco Uncini. It is true that, as is mandatory, once the resurfacing of Silverstone was completed, Uncini traveled there to check the suitability of the work done. As he explained in his appearance on Sunday afternoon of the canceled GP, everything was in order. In his defense, he also argued that Cal Crutchlow rode there in March and that his opinion was also positive. What Franco did not say, we do not know if by omission or ignorance, was that Crutchlow rode the track on a street bike and with a passenger!

It’s perfectly understandable that Franco Uncini approved the resurfacing at a circuit with the tradition and status of Silverstone. However, some red light should have been turned on at the FIM (the party responsible for the approval of the circuits) or at DORNA (the championship’s promoter) when one month before the start of the GP, Lewis Hamilton criticized severely the conditions of the new Silverstone asphalt.

Having said that, it’s perfectly understandable that Uncini approved the resurfacing at a circuit with the tradition and status of Silverstone, so that the matter was closed after the inspection. However, some red light should have been turned on at the FIM (the party responsible for the approval of the circuits) or at DORNA (the championship’s promoter) when one month before the start of the GP, Lewis Hamilton criticized the conditions of the new Silverstone asphalt and on his social networks he warned that MotoGP and their bikes would have many problems when they arrived. Should not that have been enough reason for Uncini to make a second visit to Silverstone? Because Hamilton is not just anybody, he is the F1 World Champion, and also British.

In his appearance, Uncini explained that over the last 30 days there had been contacts with the circuit and that they were aware of the conditions of the asphalt, but that “there was no time to do anything”. We are talking about bumps, not the draining  problems that would lead to the suspension of a race. If everything was as was stated, neither Uncini as representative of the FIM nor DORNA were informed by those responsible for the circuit of what could happen in case of rain.
By the way, teams had refused to test on the new asphalt at Silverstone claiming, “It’s too far, it would be too complicated”. So as an alternative it was decided to add an extra tire a compound for the GP weekend.

THE CANCELLATION

We know the technical reasons that led to the cancellation of the UK GP: a dangerous track under rainy conditions. There is always a case of someone thinking “it wasn’t so bad” or “they could have raced,” as in fact some riders did. But for most of them that was not the case, so here we aren’t going to entertain the idea that “some riders forced the cancellation because they were interested in the championship.” We are not the ones to speculate their professionalism.

But while we aren’t going to question the riders’ decision, we conclude that the DORNA’s management of the crisis was wrongly focused. Assuming they couldn’t race on Sunday and knowing that the next day’s weather would have allowed a race, they should have made the decision to race on Monday. The circuit promised to maintain the infrastructures, and from the point of view of the spectators, the following day was a holiday in the United Kingdom, the damages would have been minimized.

By the way, teams had refused to test on the new asphalt at Silverstone claiming, “It’s too far, it would be too complicated”. So as an alternative it was decided to add an extra tire a compound for the GP weekend.

DORNA’s mistake was to put this option to a vote between the teams. And things being as they are, the necessary unanimity was not granted; each team put their interests before that of the GP. Carmelo Ezpeleta, as head of DORNA, should have set Monday as the new date of the race – period. There are situations that cannot be managed democratically, and this was a clear example.

From there, if teams had ‘reasons’ not to race, they should raised them … Serious reasons … Because changing plane tickets or paying an extra hotel night of course would not have been arguments to deny the sponsors or television channels a race … and the spectators! I would say more: DORNA could perfectly had covered half of these extra expenses, or even all of them! … The damage would not have been more than the cost of canceling the first GP since they took over the World Championship.

THE LESSONS

What happened at Silverstone is an unpleasant precedent. But as a negative milestone in the trajectory of the World Championship, it should serve as something to learn from. We all make mistakes and the important thing is to learn from setbacks.
In this case, the first lesson should be that the FIM has to change its protocol for the homologation of circuits. The one followed thus far has failed and should be revised. And please, don’t anyone come back with “once is never, two is everything,” as the German saying goes. Once is enough, just ask Tito Rabat. Although it may only be for him, the FIM, and DORNA, they need to review how they monitor race conditions, ahead of the arrival of the trucks, the riders and the spectators at the track..
The second lesson, equally clear, is that no race should be held on a resurfaced circuit without having tested its surface. Whether with the official teams or with the test teams, it doesn’t matter, but the Silverstone lesson has been overwhelming.


On the subject of “we cannot make it rain when we do inspections” – please, we are in the 21st century. I will refrain from giving an example of the flood that was created in Losail with four trucks, because it is an antiquated system, but I appeal to engineering companies capable of detecting potholes, future pools of water, etc. using technology equivalent to MotoGP era.

Finally, although it sounds bad, democracy is not an option in every situation. Hear everyone out, yes, but in certain situations a final decision just need to be made and stuck to.