A solid start to the 2014 Formula One World Championship has Sahara Force India heading toward surpassing its overall points total from last year.
In 2013, Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil netted 77 points and a sixth-place result in the Constructors’ Championship for the Silverstone squad.
But in just four races in 2014, Force India’s new pairing of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez have already bagged 54 points and the team’s currently third in the Constructors’ – and smack in the middle of a tight battle between themselves, Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren for “best of the rest” status behind Mercedes.
Going into this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix (Sun., 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra), Hulkenberg indicated that he and his team’s consistent run to open the calendar may have been more than he’d initially hoped for.
“I’ve enjoyed the first part of the year,” he said. “It’s probably gone better than we were expecting after winter testing and it’s good to keep picking up the points.
“I’m fourth [in the Drivers’ Championship] with 36 points and I think that’s a big achievement. The car has worked well everywhere and we’ve made the most of the opportunities. Consistency is surely one of our strengths at the moment.”
But the development beat always goes on in Formula One, and Hulkenberg knows that his team can not let up on that front as the European rounds get underway.
“We’re up in third in the [Constructors’] championship and we want to stay there,” he said. “The hard work over the winter is paying off, but we know that Formula One is always a development race and things can change from one weekend to the next. So we need to keep working hard to maintain our good position.”
As for his boss, Vijay Mallya, he is “optimistic” that the consistency from his team will continue.
“China has never been an especially strong track for us, so to come away with ten points was a very good effort,” he said. “We also expect our car to perform better in warmer conditions and there are some upcoming races that will play more to our strengths.”
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.