After holding onto his lead from pole position and moving into a healthy lead after just a few laps in Malaysia on Sunday, Lewis Hamilton looked certain to claim his second win of the season.
However, following a safety car period sparked by Marcus Ericsson’s spin into the gravel, Mercedes switched to a three-stop strategy that left both of its drivers struggling in the race.
Towards the end of his third stint in the race, Hamilton was bearing down on Sebastian Vettel in first place, and had hoped to switch to the medium tire for the final stint that would give him a large pace advantage over the German driver, who would have been on a slower and more worn compound by that point.
However, Hamilton was fitted with prime tires at his final stop, prompting him to tell his team over the radio: “This is the wrong tire man!”
Mercedes then explained to him that the only medium compound tires left had been worn during the first stage of qualifying on Saturday, when most opted to run on hards.
Hamilton stood little chance of catching Vettel as a result, and eventually had to settle for second place.
“Whether it’s an error… We could have done things differently, that’s for sure,” Hamilton told NBCSN after the race. “Hindsight is always a good thing.
“I don’t know whether we should’ve stayed out or not. If I had of stayed out, I’m not sure how it would have gone as I was struggling on my balance.
“Some other parts in the race were not so bad, but we were constantly playing catch-up and it was impossible. Second and third isn’t bad, but it’s great that we have a fight.”
Hamilton also had to deal with communication problems, and even shouted at his engineer at one point for talking to him when he was going through a fast corner.
“There was a bit of confusion in the car,” Hamilton said. “That’s always not good. When people speak to you in the corner, that’s really hard. They’re shouting at you and you’re like “what the hell’s going on?” and it’s easy to lose focus.”
The focus of the Detroit Monster Energy Supercross round was on the mid-pack battle while Aaron Plessinger pulled away from the field, but when he crashed after hooking his foot in the dirt, the results once more looked like we’ve come to expect, with Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac sharing the podium for the fifth time in 10 rounds.
For Sexton, Plessinger’s late-race crash was a vindication of sorts. Several times already this season, Sexton has crashed while battling for the lead and the points that has cost him keeps him sporting the red plate. He lost points in Detroit for a different reason, however.
Sexton was allowed to keep the win, but was penalized seven points for jumping in a red cross section of the course. As a result, he dropped four points to Webb and two to Tomac. Sexton is now 17 points behind Webb in the championship hunt.
One week after snatching the red plate from Tomac for the first time in 2023, Webb stretched his advantage by two. With his second-place finish, Webb holds a three-point lead over Tomac, which essentially means both riders control their fate in the coming weeks. Webb continues to have a sweep of the top five this season with his sixth consecutive podium.
Coming off his worst finish of the season, Tomac rebounded to finish third. His eighth-place result last week was partially attributed to a stiff neck that hindered him in traffic and he still suffered some of those same effects in Detroit. Before Plessinger’s crash, he was destined to be the only rider in the three-man title scrum to finish off the podium in Detroit.
It is surprising what one position can do for one’s confidence.
Justin Barcia scored his fourth top-five of the season. He was part of the exciting four-man battle that dominated the middle stages of the race before Sexton and Webb gained a little separation. Finishing less than three seconds behind Tomac, he kept that rider honest for the entire race.
Coming off his first win of the season, Ken Roczen finished fifth. It was his seventh top-five of the season and it elevated him to fifth in the standings.
Hunter Lawrence tied his brother Jett Lawrence with 10 wins each after another dominating ride in the Detroit Supercross race and the results in the points continue to widen. With his fifth win in six rounds and a worst finish of third, Lawrence now has a 35-point advantage over Nate Thrasher with four rounds remaining. Finishes of 14th or better in the final four mains will give him his first 250 championship.
Jett will have an opportunity to retake his wins’ lead as Supercross heads west for the next two rounds in Seattle and Glendale, Arizona.
Nate Thrasher earned his third second-place finish of the season with a gap of 7.6 seconds to Lawrence. He won the overall in Arlington earlier this season, but a 15th-place finish in the opening round in Houston and 10th in Daytona hurts his championship chances.
Haiden Deegan scored his second podium and fourth top-five in six rounds of his young career. On his way to that finish, he rode aggressively against his teammate Jordon Smith in the heat race. Fans are getting a glimpse of what his on-track personality might be.
Jeremy Martin continues to be the model of consistency. He has not finished worse than sixth or better than fourth in six rounds now and that has allowed him to close to within two points of third in the 250 East championship standings.
Max Anstie entered the race weekend second in the points, but a hard crash in heavy traffic early in the main forced him to retire after two laps. Earning only one point for the round, he plummeted to fifth in the standings.
The news was worse for Smith, who was dropped out of the top nine in his heat after the altercation with Deegan and failed to advance through the LCQ. In the last chance race, he stalled his engine and had to mount a determined charge. He got only as high as seventh in that race after crashing while attempting to make a pass on fourth-place Jack Chambers.