Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner was in a jubilant mood following today’s Malaysian Grand Prix after Sebastian Vettel finished the race in third place, bringing an end to the team’s ‘winter of discontent.’
Having put more resources into the successful 2013 campaign, Red Bull found themselves on the back foot during winter testing in Spain and Bahrain. The team’s problems were only compounded by engine supplier Renault’s issues, meaning that heading to the first race in Australia, the defending world champions had not completed an entire race distance.
“Considering where we were a month ago, to be on the podium with Sebastian in Malaysia in a dry race, is an incredible performance,” he explained. “We knew that we had some ground to catch up to the Mercedes, so to finish as close as Sebastian did today was a really positive performance and, while we know we’ve got a lot of work to do, we can begin to realize the scale of our challenge.”
As for Ricciardo, Horner expressed his sympathy for the Australian driver who once again came away with no points.
“It’s a great shame for Daniel who did everything right today: a great start and a great first lap and a really impressive opening part of the race,” Horner said. “It was unlucky that when he came in to a pit stop, the front left didn’t go on properly and the car was released, it was judged to be an unsafe release and we had a drive through penalty.
“Thereafter the wing failed – we don’t know what caused that yet. I think Daniel’s clearly shown his potential and that the Australian GP wasn’t a one off. It’s great to have two guys pushing like they are.”
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.