It was the longest battle to decide the Moto2 podium to date. Six hours, in fact. That's how long it took those behind the scenes to decide on three things this past weekend at the Catalan GP:
1) Did Marc Márquez breach the regulations set out in the FIM rulebook?
2) What penalty should be given?
3) Who was going to tell Esteve Rabat that his third place trophy needed to be returned?
After deliberation, race direction's decision was made. That it was announced after the MotoGP race had finished and most TV channels were off-air was something of an inconvenience to the viewing public and anyone reporting on the intermediate class, but it was even more of a blow to Márquez.
He was adjudged to have breached regulation 1.21.1 of the rulebook, which means that he had failed to "ride in a responsible manner which does not cause danger to other competitors or participants" and there were six possible punishments to choose from. Race Direction went for the time penalty option, rather than disqualification, a fine, withdrawal of championship points, disqualification or suspension.
The decision to take a minute off the 2011 World Championship runner-up's time was a harsh one, and subsequently rescinded by FIM stewards on appeal. Right or wrong - and Rossi, Stoner and Lorenzo were all incredulous at the original penalty - the process was a shambles through-and-through.
Two parties, seemingly indistinguishable (how often have you seen these FIM stewards have any impact at a grand prix in the past?) pulling in different directions only serves to create confusion as to who is calling the shots. Then there was the option of an appeal to the appeal, to be lodged with the FIM's international disciplinary court. Then there was Aleix Espargaró adding fuel to the fire by saying that Dorna had stepped in to help out Márquez in the aftermath of contact with brother Pol. That's a whole lotta bureaucracy to wade through for third place.
The Catalan GP had previously provided tales of crimes and punishment to match any series of CSI, stretching back to Max Biaggi's unique approach to black flags in 1998 (ignore them, cross the line first and then celebrate as Mick Doohan shakes his head in the background) and more recently Johann Zarco's running-off of Nico Terol in 2011.
Protracted and messily handled it may have been, but the process this year kept Márquez's collision with Pol Espargaró in the public eye when it may well have faded into the background following the headline attraction. The sanction was a mess - the original action not much better. Whilst not 'irresponsible' as such and worthy of being put down as a racing incident, the move three laps from the end was, in my opinion, Márquez's fault and a collision reminiscent of many of his mistakes in the Moto2 class.
His ability to carve through the field should never be questioned, but the Spaniard continues to show a sense of entitlement to the racing line. Whereas on previous occasions he has cruised along the fast route in practice sessions and raised the ire of fellow riders, this time he swooped back into a prime position without so much as a cursory glance to check for traffic.
For the argument of "I didn't see him" read "I didn't look". Absolve Márquez of punishment by all means, put it down to typical racing contact, but don't apportion the blame to anyone but number 93.
Having said that, maybe they should have brought everyone back on track later on, started Márquez from 23rd on the grid - his place had the minute penalty been upheld - and had a three-lap sprint to the finish. You wouldn't be able to keep the fans away for that one.