Vettel leads Red Bull 1-2 in second practice for Italian GP

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Sebastian Vettel has finished quickest in the second practice session for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza, finishing over six-tenths clear of the rest of the field as Red Bull laid down an ominous pace ahead of qualifying tomorrow.

Much as they did in FP1, the majority of the field came out early on the hard tire for FP2 in order to gauge their one-lap pace on the prime compound. Sebastian Vettel was quick to put his Pirellis to good work, topping the timesheets once every driver had posted a competitive time. However, teammate Mark Webber was less fortunate, sitting on the sidelines for the first twenty minutes of the session following a KERS problem. Eventually, the Australian driver managed to get out and moved into second place just behind Vettel ahead of the first medium tire runs.

On the softer (and faster) compound, Vettel continued to dominate early on as he became the first driver to break the 1:25 barrier, with a very competitive time of 1:24.453. Once again, teammate Webber was his closest challenger, albeit six-tenths down on the defending world champion. Judging by their practice pace, it appears that Red Bull’s struggles on high-speed circuits such as Monza may no longer exist, making both Vettel and Webber contenders for victory on Sunday.

Lotus also showed strong pace on the softer compound, with Raikkonen and Grosjean setting identical times of 1:25.116 to sit P3 and P4 respectively whilst home favorite Fernando Alonso could only manage fifth on the low-fuel runs. Having been replaced for FP1, Giedo van der Garde, Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi all returned to action, but none of the trio could outpace their teammates during the session.

With around forty-five minutes remaining, the majority of the field switched to high-fuel runs in order to evaluate their pace for the race on Sunday. Red Bull continued to impress on the long runs, with Vettel lapping around one second per lap quicker than championship rival Fernando Alonso, although their respective fuel loads could have exaggerated this gap. Alonso’s teammate, Felipe Massa, suffered from a gearbox problem with just under fifteen minutes remaining, ending his session early.

Come the checkered flag, Red Bull’s dominance went unchallenged, suggesting that Vettel could be in line to extend his championship lead on Sunday and potentially score a third win at Monza ahead of the Asian leg of the calendar.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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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.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

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.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

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.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

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.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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