Williams enjoyed a rather quiet Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday as Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas eased to fifth and sixth place respectively at the Shanghai International Circuit.
Both drivers had hoped to challenge Ferrari for the final podium position during today’s race, but were quickly passed by Kimi Raikkonen off the line before falling back from the Italian marque’s cars.
However, the pace that Williams displayed was good enough to pull it clear of Lotus, leaving Massa and Bottas with a 30 second buffer to the cars ahead and the cars behind entering the final stages of the race.
Although these gaps were cut thanks to a late safety car period, both drivers were happy to pick up the maximum points on offer in China on Sunday.
“We had a good race today and I managed to get the most out of the car,” Massa said. “The team performed very well but we just don’t have the raw speed to catch the cars in front.
“I will work on my start as that is really the only thing that went wrong for us. We have scored the most amount of points available to us today.”
Bottas was less upbeat about his result after struggling to catch Massa, but was pleased to leave Shanghai with a good haul of points.
“It was a lonely race for me today,” Bottas said. “I struggled for race pace throughout, but as a team we got the best result we could have achieved.
“I would have liked to have kept Kimi behind for longer after getting in front of him at the start, but he made a good move on me to retake the position. There is quite a bit of work to do to catch the cars ahead, but it’s only race three, so there is plenty of time.”
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.