Lotus refuses to comment as rumors of switch to Mercedes power swirl

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So far, Mercedes has three teams slated to use their V-6 engines in 2015. If you believe the current rumors, there will soon be a fourth team in their stable.

Over the last couple of weeks, multiple reports from entities such as noted F1 scribes Adam Cooper and Joe Saward, as well as Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, have touched on rumblings that Lotus will replace McLaren as that fourth Mercedes-powered team next year.

This morning, a spokesman for Lotus – which is currently powered by Renault – refused to comment on the rumors according to Britain’s Sky Sports.

The team has regressed badly this year after finishing fourth in the Constructors’ in 2013 despite well-documented financial issues. A lot of the blame for their current decline can go to its Renault power unit, which has failed to keep up with the Mercedes-powered entries.

Regardless of whether these Lotus-Mercedes rumors are true or not, they can’t make Renault’s job any easier at the moment as they continue to sustain criticism for their efforts – particularly from their top client, four-time defending World Champions Red Bull.

Team principal Christian Horner has declared Renault’s contribution “unacceptable” and more recently, driver Daniel Ricciardo admitted that their engine situation has been a source of frustration.

“Don’t get me wrong, it is frustrating because it is hard because a lot of it happens on the straight and there is no skill required on the straight,” Ricciardo said to reporters. “So it is throwing talent away for nothing.

“Don’t get me wrong, anyone can hop in the car and if you are not scared to go 300 kilometers an hour, you can easily go flat out on the straight – so it is giving away time for nothing, which is the frustrating part.

“I guess from [Red Bull’s] side, they spent time, hours, money, on designing a fast car through the corners yet it just gets washed away on the straights so that is the frustrating part, but it is what it is.”

Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

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Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.