Aleix Espargaro has expressed concern over the extra exertion required to ride a MotoGP bike over a race distance due to the levels of downforce.

The Aprilia star was among several riders to highlight the physical strain on the arms caused by racing a 1000cc prototype for 23 laps around Mugello in the recent Italian Grand Prix.

Downforce makes the bikes heavier when changing direction, but faster over a lap. 

That extra performance, combined with technical progress in other areas including tyre development, has seen MotoGP consistently break lap and race records this season.

“The bikes are faster because we have a lot of downforce but the arms of the riders are the same as ten years ago,” Espargaro said.

“You might have more downforce and the bike is heavier and heavier but the arms are the same and the power of the muscles are the same.

“I think we are all fitter than ten years ago but you cannot change the body… The bikes look like a Formula One car and the lap times are extremely fast.”

Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia took victory in the 2024 Italian Grand Prix with a race-winning time of 40m 51.385s, a huge 25.478s quicker than his own winning time from the year before.

Although Espargaro dropped from sixth place at Mugello last year to eleventh this season, he still improved his race time by 17.204s. But the Spaniard claimed he couldn’t have done another lap.

“One more lap and I had to retire, unbelievable,” Espargaro said of the strain on his arms. “The bike was super aggressive, super nervous, and I couldn’t accelerate any more. I couldn’t brake. The last 8 or 10 laps I was just braking with one finger.

“Obviously we didn’t have the best setting around Mugello, but I think overall everybody was quite similar. It means the downforce we have in the MotoGP class in general is too much for the human body. Just too much.”

While Espargaro will retire from full-time racing at the end of this season the rate of increasing performance means, “It would be nice if the ’27 rules came in ’25 or ’26! A little bit earlier… but it’s not really my problem anymore!”

The 2027 technical rules will trim back performance in multiple areas, including aerodynamics.

“I hope they are going to be slower but less physical because they are extremely physical now and the downforce is unbelievable,” he said.

But downforce isn’t all bad in Espargaro’s eyes, with the main straight crest at Mugello now much safer with the front wheel glued to the ground.

“With the Suzuki, I remember having a wheelie before trying to brake at 350km/h hour and now you can put one hand on the fuel tank! It’s super-easy. I have to say that the wings here in Mugello make things safer. 100%.”

Espargaro, rumoured to be switching to Honda for test riding next year, is expected to make at least one wild-card appearance per season in future.