Valtteri Bottas was pleased to fend off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the final stages of yesterday’s Bahrain Grand Prix to hang on and secure fourth place for Williams.
Bottas started from fifth place on the grid and endured a rather lonely race in his first two stints, enjoying a healthy buffer to the cars behind, but standing little chance of catching the Ferrari and Mercedes cars ahead.
However, after making a mistake and sustaining front wing damage to his SF15-T car, Vettel was forced to make an unscheduled third pit stop, dropping himself behind Bottas in the running order.
Despite having fresher tires and the quicker car, Vettel was unable to find a way past for fourth place, despite making a number of attempts to hustle the Finn into a mistake.
Bottas crossed the line to finish fourth and record his best result of the season so far, and was pleased to have defeated Vettel on track.
“I am pleased with the race and happy with fourth position,” Bottas said. “It was a lonely race but the final 20 laps were very tough.
“Sebastian was quicker than me, and closed up behind very fast, but the fight was really good fun. I know a few tricks that can really help to defend and they all worked today, and I am delighted to come out on top today.”
His teammate, Felipe Massa, failed to continue his good start to the season following a problem firing up the car for the parade lap. After stalling his car, the Brazilian was forced to start from the pit lane, dropping him to the back of the field.
Massa managed to fight his way back through the field to pick up a point for tenth place, but remained frustrated by the result.
“It was a frustrating day for me to have to start from the pitlane,” Massa said. “The car struggled to fire-up and once under way I had a lot of positions to make up.
“A few laps in at turn four, Maldonado ran into the back of me and damaged something. From then on I really struggled with the rear and the car was very hard to drive.
“It was a difficult day but one point is better than nothing.”
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.