ABU DHABI – Marussia F1 Team has fallen short in a last-ditch attempt to race in this weekend’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that could have put the Anglo-Russian outfit in line for a $40m windfall.
After struggling financially for some time, the Marussia F1 operation entered administration following the Russian Grand Prix in October, before ultimately closing its doors and making 200 staff redundant two weeks ago.
However, it emerged in Brazil that efforts were still being made to get the team to Abu Dhabi for the final race of the year, with participation in the final race preventing its likely exclusion from the constructors’ championship and the loss of ninth place in the standings – set to be the team’s best ever season in F1.
Ferrari engine personnel were spotted sporting Marussia shirts on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, with two garages between Caterham and Williams being cleared in case of the team’s arrival. Personnel and cargo were also on standby to be transported to the Yas Marina Circuit ahead of Thursday’s scrutineering deadline.
These garages have been left empty for Marussia should the team make Abu Dhabi. Would be fab for the sport if so. pic.twitter.com/rP3yxy7SpS
Ultimately though, the 11th-hour talks fell short, with the team’s driver, Max Chilton, confirming on Twitter that Marussia would not be racing in Abu Dhabi after all.
Devastated for everyone involved at Marussia in the past 24 hours that the hard work trying to get to Abu Dhabi didn’t work out as we hoped. — Max Chilton (@maxchilton) November 19, 2014
Therefore, we will have a 10-team grid for the final race of the 2014 Formula 1 season, with Caterham returning after two races away following its own financial struggles. Kamui Kobayashi is the only confirmed driver up to now, but with the FIA publishing the entry list for this weekend’s race today, we should know who the second driver is in the next few hours.
Wednesday did yield some good news for Marussia, though. Jules Bianchi has been transferred to a hospital in France and is no longer in an artificial coma following his accident at the Japanese Grand Prix in October that left him with severe head injuries.
Bianchi scored the team’s only points in F1 history at the Monaco Grand Prix in May, battling through to finish ninth in one of the best stories the sport has seen this year. However, the financial bonus of a higher championship finish is set to be lost due to the closure of the team, with Caterham the likely beneficiary.
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.