Williams combats wet weather woes in Shanghai

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When the umbrellas went up in the paddock at the Shanghai International Circuit on Saturday morning, the Williams team members must have been left wondering which weather god they had annoyed.

The FW36 car has been superb in the dry, but struggled greatly in the wet. Lo and behold: four races, three wet qualifying sessions. Another Q2 exit appeared to be on the cards.

But no. The team finally appears to have conquered its wet weather problems as Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas qualified in sixth and seventh place respectively for the Chinese Grand Prix today. Both drivers ran well in the tricky conditions to ease into the final part of qualifying, and once again their parity was clear as just one-tenth of a second separated the two of them.

“Today was a difficult day for us, as the weather was tough, but we got the most of out of it and showed that we have improved in the wet,” Massa explained. “It’s good to see forward steps. Tomorrow could be an interesting day as we are more competitive in the dry; it could make for a good race.”

Valtteri Bottas was also buoyed by the result in the wet, saying: “Today was a positive day for us as it’s clear we have made some improvements in the wet. The updates we brought here have helped in the dry but it’s good to see they have improved the car’s performance in the wet as well.

“It’s the right direction and it’s the result of a lot of hard work from the guys.”

However, the team will still be hoping for a dry race tomorrow in China. The pace of the FW36 means that Williams is certainly capable of a podium finish. The team nearly achieved this in Bahrain, only for the safety car period to ruin the races of both Massa and Bottas.

Despite all of this bad luck so far in 2014, the team is still lightyears ahead of where it was in 2013 when just five points were scored between two cars in nineteen races.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”