The use of aerodynamic wings in MotoGP has been prevalent for quite some time now. The revolution in its usage, however, gained momentum in 2015 when Ducati incorporated winglets into its GP15. Aerodynamic advancements have since become a crucial differentiating factor among competitors despite efforts by race organisers to counteract their significance.
Regrettably, the heightened focus on aerodynamics in MotoGP has tainted the sport somewhat. The inclusion of aerodynamic fairings and ride height adjustment instruments has made it more challenging for competitors to battle on the track. The Austrian GP was a prime example of this, with the usual last-lap battles being notably minimal.
Honda‘s rider, Marquez, has drawn parallels between the evolved state of MotoGP and Formula 1. He noted how F1 has shifted away from aerodynamic dependencies due to the ground-effect regulations enforced in 2022. Furthermore, cost cap rules have also somewhat curtailed the aero war within F1.
The trajectory of aerodynamic development in MotoGP is expected to change with the introduction of new bike regulations in 2027. However, Marquez has argued that this delay is detrimental to the quality of racing at present. Marquez recalled his views voiced a couple of years back, when he said, “The people then said ‘no’. Some people are against the aerodynamic things, other people are in favour.”
Marquez cast doubts about the sport’s adaptability to increased dependence on aerodynamics. He suggested, “I mean, you can adapt. But in the end, the actual MotoGP depends more about your bike because if you don’t have the aerodynamics, if you don’t have the traction, and many things on the technical side that you depend more on that. And then to attack, to overtake riders becomes more and more difficult.”
He makes a stark comparison with F1. He noted, “It becomes like Formula 1, and Formula 1 is going in the opposite way. It looks like [cars] have less downforce, less effect about the aero, and we are going in the opposite way, every time bigger.” He lamented the delay in regulations change, saying it’s “too late. Three years like this, the development is going to have more and more downforce.”
Racing in 2023 has been negatively affected not just by aerodynamic elements, but also due to the new tyre pressure laws. The high turbulence generated by the aerodynamics of modern MotoGP bikes increases tyre pressure quickly which leads to issues in grip and braking for riders, making overtaking an even tougher challenge. This reason also adds fuel to the increase in aggressive race manoeuvres, especially during sprints, as riders strive to gain as much ground as possible to avoid another bike’s turbulent wake.
This was evident in the recently concluded Austrian GP, where the winner’s margin was a stark 5.191 seconds compared to merely 0.492 seconds in 2022 or 0.130 in 2018, highlighting the changing dynamic of competitive MotoGP racing.