Lewis Hamilton believes that Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was the faster driver today in Bahrain despite failing to pass the Briton in the dying stages of a spectacular grand prix.
Hamilton claimed his second straight win by giving Rosberg a masterclass in defensive driving. After Mercedes had planned to allow their drivers to fight it out with different strategies, a safety car period following Esteban Gutierrez’s crash meant that Rosberg had the advantage on a quicker tire.
Having lost a 10 second lead, Hamilton appeared to be at the mercy of his German colleague, but despite a number of lunges and opportunistic overtaking attempts, Rosberg simply could not find a way past. Come the checkered flag, Hamilton’s winning margin was just 1.085 seconds; a far cry from the 17 abyss between the two drivers last weekend.
“That was a really tough race tonight and I am absolutely delighted to have come home with the win,” Hamilton explained after the race. “It’s a long time since I had a race like that! I knew that I needed a good start and to go into the first corner in the lead was crucial to my race this evening.
“From there, it was such a battle. Nico drove fantastically well and, in all honesty, he had the pace on me today but I managed to hold on. I knew when the safety car came out that Nico would be on the option tires and that he would be quick. To try and stay ahead of him was so hard and when I came across the line I was just so relieved.”
Hamilton conceded that he felt under pressure because of the inter-team battle, but the Mercedes management had insisted that its drivers would be free to race each other, bucking the trend of team orders that have tainted many races over the past decade.
“When you’re racing your teammate, the pressure is really intense and we both knew that we had to bring the cars home for the team and for the championship,” he said. “All credit to the team for allowing us to race and I hope the fans loved the show that we were able to put on tonight.”
With this win, Hamilton moves clear into second place in the drivers’ championship with 50 points, and trails Rosberg by just 11 heading to the Chinese Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.
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.