Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner is pleased with how drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel performed in yesterday’s Italian Grand Prix, believing that they could not have finished any higher than fifth and sixth at Monza.
The defending world champions bounced back from a difficult qualifying session to beat McLaren, Force India and Ferrari on Sunday, but the Mercedes and Williams cars ahead were simply too quick in the race.
Ricciardo came out on top in the intra-team battle, passing Vettel with five laps to go thanks to his fresher set of tires. However, Horner said that this was simply a result of the team’s split strategy call at Monza.
“I think fifth and sixth was the absolute optimum today,” Horner said. “We picked two different strategies, an aggressive one with Sebastian to undercut the McLaren, which worked and gave him track position but unfortunately made his tires marginal at the end of the race.
“With Daniel we took the opposite approach as he was running in clear air. We ran him long in the first stint with a shorter second stint and then his passing moves to come back through the field were truly impressive.
“Obviously with Sebastian struggling with tire degradation due to the length of the stint, it became inevitable that the two were going to swap positions.
“But fifth and sixth place, at a circuit dominated by Mercedes-powered cars, is damage limitation achieved.”
Red Bull had expected to struggle at both the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix, given that the high-speed circuits played against the strengths of the RB10 car. However, thanks to Ricciardo’s win at Spa, it has emerged with 53 points from the two races, and looks set to finish the constructors’ championship in second place behind the runaway leader, Mercedes.
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.