Sebastian Vettel has matched his best qualifying result of the 2014 F1 season at Silverstone today, and will start the British Grand Prix from second place on the grid.
The four-time world champion has had a difficult start to the year, scoring just two podium finishes and falling way behind the all-conquering Mercedes drivers in the championship standings. However, he managed to tame the wet conditions in England today to secure P2 in qualifying, matching his result from Saturday in Malaysia.
“It was a very weird session,” Vettel said during the post-qualifying press conference. “A lot of rain, no rain, drizzling, very fine rain, nearly like spray; I think England is the only country where you can get this sort of rain and conditions and changing so quickly.”
Many of the drivers struggled in the conditions, but Vettel asserted that it was a case of taking enough risk without going too far.
“Incredibly difficult to know what was coming so on the flying lap you approach turn one and turn one is a pretty big balls corner, so it’s difficult to know how much risk you can take,” he explained. “Eventually, you have to take some risk because, especially in my case, I wanted to set a lap.
“So obviously very happy that it turned out. Yeah, very positive and starting from the front row tomorrow.”
Vettel will be hoping to convert his front row start into his third podium finish of the season on Sunday, but will face stiff competition from the McLaren and Force India drivers not far behind.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton will also be gunning to make up some positions after a mistake in qualifying that leaves him sixth on the grid.
You can watch the British Grand Prix live on CNBC and Live Extra from 7:30am ET tomorrow.
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. Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome in 1974. 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.