The news leaked out on Friday at the Red Bull Ring and was officially confirmed in a special press conference on Saturday.
The final details are still to be agreed but what is clear is that there will be a Saturday afternoon (3pm) Sprint race at every round, of half the normal distance and awarding half points (12 points for a win, 1 point for 9th), and that it will not replace the normal (Q1 and Q2) qualifying sessions.
Update: A press release issued after the conference also revealed that the two MotoGP Friday practice sessions will be extended (currently 45 minutes) and the combined times used to determine direct access to Q2 (instead of waiting until after Free Practice 3 on Saturday morning).
FP3 will now be reduced from 45 to 30 minutes – thus effectively becoming FP4, which has been dropped from the schedule – and directly followed by Q1 and Q2. The Sprint race is then the last Saturday MotoGP action.
No mention was made of the warm-up sessions.
The order of the track action and Sunday races will also be ‘standardised’ next season with Moto3 followed by Moto2 and finally MotoGP whenever possible, ‘allowing for an improved podium ceremony, on-track celebrations and the possibility of fan track invasions at each venue’.
“We think that after two years of Covid, when all of us made incredible sacrifices to keep having this important Championship, it’s time to give more exposure, in the TV, but also to the spectators,” said FIM president Jorge Viegas. “We need more spectators, we need a better show, and we need to fill the Saturdays.”
“It has been the aim of the championship to try to improve everything as much as we can, working in all areas,” said Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta. “We have been looking at other sports, different possibilities, to offer a better show. It has been discussed with the FIM, the manufacturers and teams.”
However, the Sprint race idea received a mixed reception from the MotoGP riders on Friday. Addressing complaints that the riders didn’t know about the decision beforehand, Ezpeleta added:
“The riders must be informed by the teams. Those that hadn’t been informed I spoke to yesterday in the Safety Commission. We shared different opinions and we will consider different positions.
“We will have a Saturday sprint race, it will not count for the grid, and the rest [of the details] we can discuss.”
IRTA president Herve Poncharal said: “If you don’t move forward you make a step back. Although our show is great, it doesn’t mean you cannot improve.
“Yes, we look at what is happening somewhere else and what works somewhere else.
“We had a meeting with all the Independent MotoGP teams and they unanimously supported the idea. It will also be better for the media and sponsors.
“There will be no more [costs] because there will be no more track action, so we won’t need to change the tyre or engine allocation.
“We will try not to give more work to the riders, but provide more action and excitement.”
Over 40 MotoGP races in 2023
The addition of a Sprint race at every round will mean over 40 MotoGP races in 2023.
The issue of whether a Sprint race victory will be considered a ‘grand prix win’ is still to be decided.
On the one hand, it’s still a MotoGP race, on the other it would effectively render results comparisons with past riders (total wins, podiums, points etc) largely meaningless.
FIM president Viegas made his preference clear: “A victory is a victory, so why shouldn’t it count?”
The MotoGP rules currently award full points if a race is stopped after 3/4 distance, while the minimum length allowed for a restarted race is just 5 laps.
Moto2 and Moto3 will continue to have a single race, on Sundays.