Michael Schumacher has admitted that he is surprised by Mercedes’ success in 2013 following three lacklustre years with the team before retiring for a second time at the end of last season.
Schumacher is statistically the greatest driver the sport has ever seen, winning 91 grands prix and seven world championships. After retiring in 2006, the German driver announced a shock comeback in 2010 for the newly-formed Mercedes works team. However, he failed to extend his remarkable record, claiming just one podium during three years of racing.
“Given where we finished last season, it’s a surprise where they are now,” Schumacher told Eurosport. “I could not see that coming.”
Mercedes have certainly enjoyed an upturn in fortunes this season as both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have at least one race win under their belt, and the team has dominated qualifying in 2013 by taking 70% of pole positions. However, Schumacher does not believe he could have continued with the team into this new ‘era’ as much as he may have liked to.
“Honestly, I didn’t have the strength for it, the motivation and physical strength,” Schumacher explained. “These three years consumed so much energy that there would not have been enough left over to continue on the level at which I want to measure myself.”
The fairytale comeback just wasn’t to be for Schumacher, but his retirement allowed the team to take on Lewis Hamilton and the Silver Arrows can now arguably boast the strongest driver line-up on the grid. With the team’s tire woes also resolved, Mercedes could now be considered contenders for both championships heading into the second half of the season.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.