Barcelona F1 2nd Test Paddock Notebook – Friday

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Just when we started to think that 2015 could see the chasing pack put up some kind of challenge to Mercedes AMG Petronas, the German team decided to turn up the heat.

Nico Rosberg’s lap on the second day of the final pre-season test in Barcelona was nothing short of sensational, smashing Felipe Massa’s time from Thursday by over 0.7 seconds and appearing to end any ideas of a crusade against the Silver Arrows.

And to make matters worse, it wasn’t even a perfect lap. Rosberg had been struggling all day with the setup on his car, and although things were better come the afternoon, the German driver still felt frustrated. Essentially, it is Mercedes saying that it has time in reserve – yes, it can go even quicker.

This was in fact the first day of pre-season testing that has been topped by either Rosberg or world champion teammate Lewis Hamilton. Is it a case of Mercedes only now waking up? Not really. The team was still up towards the top of the timesheets in the earlier tests despite not completing a qualifying sim; what you saw today is what happens when it does try out its one lap pace.

Another busy day at the track, then. Here’s a complete round-up of all of the news and reports from the second day of the final pre-season test.

SESSION REPORT

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Mercedes finally starts cooking with gas

The very fact that Mercedes had not topped a single day of winter testing gave a shred of hope to the F1 community that the German team might just face a challenge this year. That shred of hope was left in tatters following Friday’s running, with Nico Rosberg setting a very impressive lap time indeed. What’s more: he wasn’t even entirely happy with it. Mercedes is the team to beat once again, and at this rate, it could well emulate its record-breaking exploits of 2014. An ominous pace indeed.

A breakthrough for McLaren

If McLaren was looking for its “eureka!” moment with the MP4-30 and Honda power unit, then Friday may just have been it. The British team enjoyed its most productive day of testing so far, completing 100 laps before Jenson Button’s car cried enough and ground to a halt with just 20 minutes left in the day. The pace that the Briton laid down was also quite good, finishing fifth with a best time of 1:25.590. McLaren may well be on the back foot heading to Melbourne, but definite progress is being made.

Force India’s first foray goes well

Talking of being on the back foot: Force India. Some 26 days after the majority of the teams rolled their cars out in Jerez for the first time, Force India finally got its new car, the VJM08, out on track. As first laps go, it wasn’t a very good one as a problem with the wheel rim caused a left-rear puncture, but Nico Hulkenberg rallied to finish the day with 77 laps to his name. Few teams are able to get their cars out of the box and pounding around the track so quickly, so it is a good sign for Force India – even if it has come about three weeks too late…

Age is just a number

Max Verstappen may only be 17 years old, but there is little doubt that he shaping up to be one of the most exciting prospects in F1 in recent years. The Dutchman enjoyed yet another successful day behind the wheel of the Toro Rosso car, looking comfortable on his laps and make good headway with the upgrades that had been applied until an electrical issue cut his day short. He is a refreshing and impressive talent that is quickly proving his doubters wrong; let us see if he can continue to do so in Melbourne next month.

Marussia’s comeback takes another step forwards

Formula 1 may have a habit of shunning and snubbing the smaller teams in recent months, but the story of Marussia’s revival is quite remarkable. After appearing to be dead and buried, the team has since come back to life and is now preparing to return at the Australian Grand Prix. Today saw the FIA confirm that it has a place on the grid in 2015 with the release of the updated entry list, meaning that all that stands between the team and a comeback is a car that complies with the 2015 technical regulations. As good news stories go, this is a big one.

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We’ll be back tomorrow in Barcelona with all of the coverage from day three of the final pre-season test.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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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.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

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.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

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.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

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.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2