Motorcycle racing legend Giacomo Agostini believes changes to the behavior of MotoGP tires could help avoid crashes such as the one that took the life of Marco Simoncelli in yesterday's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Simoncelli died after being struck by Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi when he lost control of his Gresini Honda on lap two at Sepang. The bike, with Simoncelli still attached, slid up the track on its side and into Edwards and Rossi's path.
Agostini, a 15-time world champion, said that the proliferation of electronic rider aids on modern MotoGP bikes was not a factor, but that there could be a need to look at the nature of MotoGP tires.
"I think electronics had nothing to do with it yesterday," he told RAI Radio. "Personally, like many other riders, I don't like electronics very much. I'd prefer the bike to be managed by the rider only and not electronics that drive your wrist.
"Sure, tires get some blame, in the sense that tires are some of the most important things on a motorcycle. Nowadays, all riders demand the tire to last from the first to the last lap, with no performance loss.
"The constructors build tires to accommodate them: they are a bit harder and a bit more difficult to handle. Unfortunately, that means that when grip lacks, the tires just slide off and drop you with no warning.
"Perhaps it would make sense to have different tires that, from mid-race on, they start to degrade. The rider would then have to ride more carefully. This would be a bit like in my times, when from mid-race onward the tire was worn so you'd need to ride by using more drifting and by being more careful."
But, overall, Agostini believes it would not be correct to try and apportion blame for the accident.
"Unfortunately, with yesterday's crash, we can't look for someone to pin the blame on," he said. "It was a crash like many that happen during races and sessions. Yesterday that crash was unfortunately fatal. It was fatal also because the bike didn't slide or fall: the rider fell. Together they went on a trajectory whereby, instead of going off the track, they went to the right, and, unfortunately, the others were coming and there was nothing they could do.
"It's useless to talk about safety and protection, because I think in this case there was enough."
He believes current safety measures in MotoGP are more than adequate.
"Back in my time, we'd race with a small helmet, with ultra-light overalls that would weigh less than two pounds; the circuits were enclosed by walls, trees and guardrails. Unfortunately, that's how it was – it was hopeless, there were many crashes and many of my colleagues passed away.
"Nowadays I'd say big steps forward have been made: the circuits are very safe, they have run-offs, the overalls are safe and the helmets are full face. There's even a riders' air bag by Dainese that protects the back, the shoulders and the head.
"A lot of work is being done for safety, but when two 150-kilo bikes crash into you at 150kph, unfortunately there's no protection for that."