Hamilton wins shortened Japanese GP to extend championship lead

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Lewis Hamilton has taken a huge step towards winning his second Formula 1 world championship by winning a rain-affected Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka today.

Despite an early red flag period due to torrential rain, an improvement in the conditions allowed the race to get underway, but it was eventually suspended for a second time with six laps remaining as conditions worsened and the light faded.

The aftermath of the race was overshadowed by the news that Jules Bianchi was unconscious and being transported to hospital following a collision with a recovery truck being used for Adrian Sutil’s Sauber.

The persistent threat of Typhoon Phanfone finally reared its head on Sunday at Suzuka, with the rain intensifying in the hour leading up to the race. This left the FIA no decision but to start the race under the safety car after the drivers reported poor visibility on their laps to the grid, with Sergio Perez even spinning off at the esses.

At 3pm local time, safety car driver Bernd Maylander led the grid away to start the race in the order that they qualified in. Through the spray, the drivers struggled to keep the cars on track, complaining of aquaplaning even at low speeds.

After just two laps behind the safety car, race control took the decision to bring out the red flag, ordering all of the drivers to return to the pits to wait for a break in the weather. After just ten minutes though, the stewards deemed the conditions to have improved enough to get the race restarted, with the safety car leading Rosberg and Hamilton away once again on lap three at Suzuka.

Fernando Alonso had been the centre of attention for much of the race weekend at Suzuka, but his race was over before it had properly started. Just three corners after restarting under the safety car, his Ferrari ground to a halt, forcing him to park up at the side of the track and retire from the race.

As the safety car continued to circulate, a number of drivers radioed over to their teams to say that the track was dry enough to restart the race, with some even saying that intermediate tires could be used, such was the improvement in conditions.

On lap 10, the race finally went green as the safety car peeled in, allowing the drivers to go racing. Hamilton immediately went on the attack, trying to find a way past Rosberg through the spray as Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado opted to make the switch to intermediate tires. Button immediately proved his wet-weather credentials, matching the pace of the Mercedes drivers immediately and sparking a flurry of activity in the pit lane as others switched for intermediates. Once all of the drivers had pitted, the Briton was running in third place.

Mercedes tried to keep its drivers out, but ultimately had to bail and brought Rosberg in at the end of lap 13. He came back out in second place as Hamilton stayed out for another lap. It proved to be a costly decision as he ran wide at Spoon, allowing Rosberg to retake the lead when the Briton pitted for intermediates.

Williams’ wet weather pace has been a cause for concern in 2014, and this immediately showed at Suzuka as both Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo managed to slip past Felipe Massa for fifth place before duly passing Valtteri Bottas in fourth with some spectacular overtakes.

At the front, Rosberg and Hamilton renewed the rivalry that has made this year’s championship so enthralling. Through the spray, they continued to exchange fastest times and quicker sectors, with the gap stabilizing at around one second as the race hit half distance. With DRS now enabled though, Hamilton was cranking up the pressure on his teammate and championship rival, moving to within striking distance as they battled in the slippery conditions.

Rosberg began to find himself struggling for grip on his intermediate tires and complaining of oversteer, and it proved to be too much in his bid to keep Hamilton back. After getting a better exit out of the final corner, Hamilton used DRS to close on Rosberg before sweeping around the outside of the first corner through the spray with a sensational move.

With no answer to his teammate’s overtake, Rosberg dropped back from Hamilton and continued to struggle on his intermediate tires, but Mercedes looked to keep both of its drivers out to save them a pit stop at the end of the race.

In the fight for third, Jenson Button’s hopes took a hit when he had to come in for a change of steering wheel, dropping him behind Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, with the four-time world champion flying after stopping for a fresh set of tires.

Vettel’s pace forced Mercedes to look over its shoulder, bringing Rosberg in for a second stop on lap 34. The Mercedes driver emerged in third place behind Hamilton and Ricciardo, who were both yet to make their second pit stop. Both eventually came in within a lap of each other, with Hamilton retaining the lead as Ricciardo dropped down to fifth place behind Rosberg, Vettel and Button.

As the race entered the final few stages, the rain began to fall heavily once again, prompting a number of drivers to make the switch to the full wet tires. After losing a position to Ricciardo, Button made the switch given that he had nothing to lose, coming back out in fifth place.

Behind the safety car, Vettel took to the pits to allow Daniel Ricciardo up into third place as the train of cars bunched up with seven laps to go. However, race control took the decision to red flag the race for a second time, bringing the drivers back to the pit lane in their running order.

The result was soon declared, giving Lewis Hamilton his first win at Suzuka and allowing the Briton to extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship. With Rosberg in second place though, the gap stands at just ten points heading to the Russian Grand Prix next weekend.

Despite his late stop, Vettel stayed in third place as the red flag saw the result taken at the lap before he stopped. However, in fourth, Ricciardo will still be happy after a strong driver. Jenson Button finished fifth for McLaren ahead of the Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa. Jean-Eric Vergne came home in eighth ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez.

However, all of the paddock’s thoughts and prayers lie with Bianchi and Marussia at this time. The FIA has confirmed that he is on his way to hospital and unconscious, but no more details have been revealed at this time.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Anaheim 2: Ken Roczen is consistency’s king

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Strength is found not only in outright wins, but also through consistency, which contributed to the rise of Ken Roczen in the SuperMotocross Rankings after Anaheim 2.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with the knowledge that he urgently needed change, so he declared himself a free agent, signed with Suzuki during the offseason and set upon 2023 with renewed determination. It worked. Roczen is one of three riders in the 450 class with a sweep of the top five and that consistency has given him the lead in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

SuperMotocross Rankings Anaheim 2
Like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield wall, Ken Roczen pointed his way to the Power Rankings lead. – Feld Motor Sports

This formula rewards riders who compete at the front of the pack at the end of the Mains, in their heats, or in last week’s case, the three motos that make up the Triple Crown. Roczen has improved his overall performance each week with a fifth in Anaheim 1, a fourth in San Diego and his first podium of 2023 in Anaheim 2. Can he keep the trend alive with a first- or second-place finish in Houston?

A fall is all it takes sometimes. Last week, Eli Tomac tumbled hard when he pushed wide on the exit of a turn and jumped on top of a Tuff Blox. He remounted after that incident in Race 3 of the Triple Crown, but could only manage a 13th-place result in the moto. It could have been much worse and resulted in an injury, but coupled with a sixth in the overall standings at Anaheim 2, it pushed him down a spot in the SuperMotocross Ranking.

Along with Roczen (and Chase Sexton), Cooper Webb swept the top five in Supercross’ first three rounds. He is knocking on the door of a win and it won’t take long for him to ascend to the top of the box. Webb has two victories in Houston and each of them came during a championship season.

If there is a more determined rider than Jason Anderson, get out of his way. His path to the front of the pack is not always lined with primroses since he often has to pass multiple riders with whom he has had a run-in during his path, but the SuperMotocross Power Rankings are concerned only with raw results – not intention – and Anaheim 2 was Anderson’s best race of the season. He earned his first top-five and first podium with a second-place finish that was aided by a moto win.

MORE: Triple Crown format shakes up A2’s finishing order

Dylan Ferrandis has also been a model of consistency. Last week his Triple Crown effort of 4-6-5 gave him an overall finish of fifth. That came on the heels of a fourth-place result in the season opener and a sixth in San Diego. With no result worse than sixth this season, the numbers add up quite well.

Sexton’s position just outside the top five this week is entirely attributable to his last-place result in the San Diego heat. The SuperMotocross Rankings looks at the past 45 days, so that will affect him for a while, but if he continues to ride like he did in Anaheim 2, he’s going to climb quickly despite that albatross around his neck.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Ken Roczen 84.63 3 2
2. Eli Tomac
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
83.25 1 -1
3. Cooper Webb 82.25 2 -1
4. Jason Anderson
[1 Heat win]
80.63 5 1
5. Dylan Ferrandis 78.75 4 -1
6. Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat wins]
77.75 9 3
7. Justin Barcia 67.88 6 -1
8. Aaron Plessinger 67.63 8 0
9. Adam Cianciarulo 67.25 7 -2
10. Joey Savatgy 61.00 11 1
10. Marvin Musquin 61.00 12 2
12. Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat win]
58.75 13 1
13. Christian Craig 56.13 14 1
14. Colt Nichols 56.00 10 -4
15. Dean Wilson 47.50 15 0
16. Tristan Lane 41.00 18 2
17. Grant Harlan 40.67 19 2
18. Justin Hill 40.57 16 -2
19. Logan Karnow 36.50 20 1
20. Alex Ray 36.00 21 1

Supercross Points


The 250 West riders get a couple of weeks off before heading to Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 and several of them need the rest. Tough weeks for Cameron McAdoo and RJ Hampshire forced them to lose ground in the SuperMotocross points to Jett Lawrence at a time that could prove to play mental games.

Lawrence also had his share of issues at Anaheim 2, but overcame early falls in the first two motos and finished no worse than sixth. Considering that he dropped to the tail of the field in Race 2, that was a remarkable accomplishment and he entered the final race with a shot at the overall win. He narrowly missed that mark, but still has not finished worse than second in three rounds. His lead in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings is safe.

Cameron McAdoo rode with injury in all three Triple Crown motos, so his sixth-place finish was a moral victory. Cameron McAdoo, Instagram

McAdoo said it best in an Instagram post this week: “Woke up feeling grateful that I’m relatively healthy after my big mistake during qualifying yesterday. We made the decision that it would be safe for me to race so I did everything I possibly could to get through the night ending up [sixth overall]. We will work on getting healed up in these few weeks off to come back strong for Oakland!”

With results of 8-7-5 in the Triple Crown and his combined sixth-place result, McAdoo lost significant ground to Lawrence in both the points’ standings and our Power formula. The Oakland race is going to be critical if he wants to stay in the championship hunt because the series will have a long break before returning in Seattle for Round 11. No one wants to sit with negative feelings for that long.

Mitchell Oldenburg has quietly amassed some impressive numbers. His name has not been called a lot during broadcasts, but he has not finished worse than seventh in any of the first three rounds. Themes develop during a season and weekend – and for the moment, this one revolves around reliability. Oldenburg finished 5-4-6 in Anaheim 2 which means he has consistently amassed SuperMotocross Power Rankings points.

Stilez Robertson won his first race of the season in Moto 2 of the Triple Crown. Coupled with a third-place finish in the final race, he leapfrogged Hampshire and Enzo Lopes, both of whom had disappointing outings. He stands fifth in the points’ standing mostly due to a ninth-place finish in the season opener, but each race has been progressively better and that is a good sign.

Sometimes, all it takes is a taste of success. Prior to Anaheim 2, Levi Kitchen’s best Supercross finish was a seventh earned in this year’s season opener. He scored a ninth at Minneapolis last year, but that was not enough to put him on the radar. This early in the season, one strong run can sway the SuperMotocross Power Ranking significantly, but Robertson has earned his way into the top five. More importantly, he’s going to be the object of interest when the West series returns to Oakland.

Next week the 250 East riders mount up in Houston, Texas before they head to Tampa, Florida. The Power Rankings will combine the two divisions, so the riders below are likely to shift dramatically.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
89.13 1 0
2. Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 3 1
3. Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 5 2
4. Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat win]
76.75 6 2
5. Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main win]
73.75 12 7
6. RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat wins]
70.00 2 -4
7. Max Vohland – W 69.29 8 1
8. Derek Kelley – W 63.75 10 2
9. Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 4 -5
10. Pierce Brown – W 61.29 13 3
11. Phil Nicoletti – W 59.25 7 -4
12. Dylan Walsh – W 56.00 9 -3
13. Cole Thompson – W 51.00 11 -2
14. Robbie Wageman – W 50.75 15 1
15. Anthony Rodriguez – W 49.00 14 -1
16. Ty Masterpool – W 47.50 16 0
17. Kaeden Amerine – W 47.50 16 -1
18. Dominique Thury – W 47.00 18 0
19. Austin Forkner – W 43.00 20 1
20. Derek Drake – W 42.33 21 1

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage