Valtteri Bottas continued to prove himself to be of the breakout stars of the 2014 Formula 1 season in Belgium yesterday, finishing third behind race winner Daniel Ricciardo and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
The Williams driver scored his fourth podium finish of the season at Spa to move within eleven points of third-placed Fernando Alonso in the standings. The Spaniard lost out to Bottas early on, and eventually finished the race down in seventh place.
“Our pace was solid today and a lot better than in qualifying, with some good battles with the Ferraris and Red Bulls, and I think third was probably the right result,” Bottas said after the race.
“I was stuck behind slower cars at the beginning which made the first stint difficult, but I managed to make my way past cars when it was needed and that was important for my race.
“We came into this race aiming for a podium and it is very satisfying to achieve that after an up and down weekend with tricky weather and Felipe [Massa] being very unlucky today with debris.”
Massa endured an anonymous race after getting some of the debris from Lewis Hamilton’s tire on his car. This cost him a great deal of performance, meaning that he could finish no higher than 13th on track.
“Unfortunately at the beginning of the race I had some tire debris stuck in the floor that came from Hamilton’s car and this made the car very slow, losing about two seconds per lap,” Massa explained. “This wasn’t removed until my second pitstop and after that I was nearly three seconds quicker and the fastest car on track, but at this point it was too late for me to really do anything.
“Obviously I’m very disappointed that something like this has hurt my race and I just hope that in Monza my luck will change and I am able to put the car in the sort of position it is capable of.”
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.