Fernando Alonso believes that McLaren is still “too fragile” after suffering yet another problem on his car during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday.
Alonso was forced to park his car up during Q2 without having set a time in the session, leaving him 15th overall in the final qualifying order.
The Spaniard will make up two places by virtue of Romain Grosjean’s grid penalty and Carlos saint Jr’s exclusion from qualifying, meaning that he will start the Monaco Grand Prix from 13th place.
Speaking after the session on Saturday, Alonso revealed that McLaren was unsure what the problem on his car was, but remained upbeat about the team’s progress.
“We don’t exactly know what happened to my car in Q2,” Alonso said. “I guess it was something electrical because the car switched itself off in the middle of the straight. I had no power, no electrics, and no readout on the steering wheel.
“But, overall, the team’s performance has been better this weekend, and Jenson [Button] at least has the opportunity to score a few points tomorrow.”
However, Alonso has written off his own chances of points, believing that he will struggle to make up any positions during the race due to the lack of overtaking around the tight Monegasque streets.
The Spaniard also said that the team remained too weak as its struggles since switching to Honda power units for the 2015 season continued.
“I don’t wish to sound pessimistic, but, in the Monaco Grand Prix, the race finishes on Saturday afternoon,” Alonso said. “On Sunday, you just join a train of cars.
“Hopefully we can gain some experience of the car, and improve its performance and reliability. We’re still too fragile at the moment.”
His teammate, Jenson Button, was disappointed not to qualify inside the top ten on Saturday, but remains hopeful of scoring McLaren’s first points of the season.
“The car felt really good – although we still don’t have enough outright pace – but I have a lot of confidence in it,” Button said.
“Today’s performance shows the progress we’re making. The team has done a fantastic job this weekend, and they should be happy because the car is getting better all the time.
“This is a nice little stepping stone for the future. Our aim tomorrow will be to score points.”
F1 Countdown for the Monaco Grand Prix is live on NBCSN from 7am on Sunday, before switching over to NBC at 7:30am ET for the race.
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. Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome in 1974. 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.