Lewis Hamilton has underlined his commitment to Mercedes in Formula 1 as he closes in on a new contract with the German team.
The world championship leader has enjoyed the most successful season of his career to date, winning eight races to give him a 10-point advantage over teammate Nico Rosberg at the top of the drivers’ standings.
However, with evident cracks appearing in the intra-team relationship between the two drivers, there have been suggestions that Hamilton could be forced out of the team, with Rosberg signing a new long-term deal earlier this year.
Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso is rumored to be monitoring the situation at Mercedes on the chance that he could slot in as Hamilton’s replacement for the 2016 season – when the Briton’s deal expires – but Lewis has said that reports linking him with a move away are wide of the mark.
“I think it’s an interesting time in Formula 1, drivers making changes,” Hamilton said in Sochi on Thursday. “There’s a lot of fiction, a lot of silly stories going around; whoever is starting those silly stories… I’ve always been very clear that I’m here to do a job, I’m contracted to the end of next year.
“We’ve confirmed that we’re going to sit down and talk about the future at the end of the year.”
Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda has already rejected the notion of Alonso joining the team, and Hamilton himself is paying little attention to the paddock speculation.
“There are only two things really on my mind,” he said. “I’m fully focused on the championship. It’s been a real surprise really, I’m very happy about it – just thinking about the racing. I’m not actually sitting here thinking ‘okay, I’ve had three wins’, I’ve not actually thought about that but I think if I do reflect on it it’s been incredible.
“I remember some years, you get one win and then don’t get another for ages. It’s very surreal this year, a period of time where you get two wins in a row, or three, or four. It’s like no other year I’ve ever experience in my racing career – it’s been great.
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.