Jenson Button has said that he is expecting a difficult race in Russia tomorrow despite qualifying in an excellent fourth place.
McLaren has endured a difficult season, currently ranking sixth in the constructors’ championship behind Force India. However, it looks set to move ahead of its rivals this weekend after Button and teammate Kevin Magnussen both qualified inside the top six in Sochi.
Magnussen will drop down to 11th by virtue of a grid penalty, but Button is hopeful of a good result from fourth after resolving the issues with the MP4-29 car that cropped up in FP3.
“We were strong on both options and primes yesterday, in both FP1 and FP2, but this morning in FP3 we went backwards, even though we weren’t running a lot of fuel,” Button explained. “With the setup we’d adopted, the car just wasn’t working for us, but, importantly, we kept our heads after that, worked through the issues, and came to qualifying with a much improved car.
“Tomorrow, I really don’t know what to expect. Our long runs have been pretty good, but it isn’t obvious how many pit stops most drivers will be making. If you lock up here, however, you’ll completely flat spot a tire, and, if you do that, a one-stopper will become untenable, so as I say it won’t be straightforward at all.”
The British driver is fighting for his seat at McLaren as Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso looks poised to rejoin the British team. Although he has more experience and success than Magnussen, at 34, he is approaching the final few years of his F1 career.
In Japan, Button produced a stellar drive to finish fifth, and a repeat result in Russia tomorrow could give McLaren plenty to consider over the next few weeks.
You can watch the Russian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am 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.
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.