Poor air quality hampers buildup for Singapore GP

AP
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The Singapore Grand Prix is already one of the most physically taxing races on the Formula One calendar, and this year drivers will have to put up with the additional strain of poor air quality.

Smoke from forest fires in Indonesia has choked Singapore in the days leading up to the race, with the local government’s Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) wavering between “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy.”

“The haze situation is highly changeable, not only from day to day, but from hour to hour,” race organizers said in a statement this week. “Therefore, it is currently not possible to reliably predict what the PSI level might be over the race weekend.”

The organizers will be hoping the air will have improved by Friday when the F1 cars first take to the Marina Bay circuit for practice, and FIA race director Charlie Whiting will consult with teams and drivers on whether any delays will be required.

The concerns over air quality add another challenge for drivers, who nominate this race, along with the grand prix in neighboring Malaysia, as the most physically demanding on the calendar.

Extreme heat and humidity combine with the difficulty of drivers trying to keep their body clocks on European time – sleeping all day – so as to be fully alert for night racing. The street circuit is also bumpy and relentless in its sequence of right-angle bends that allow not even a few seconds of mental and physical respite.

Lewis Hamilton, who won this race last year, will be aiming for a third straight victory after Belgium and Italy to stretch his championship lead over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.

Singapore was decisive in last year’s championship fight between the pair, with Rosberg’s race destroyed by an electronics failure on his steering wheel, giving Hamilton a points advantage the Briton never relinquished.

Ferrari will go into this weekend’s race with confidence it can beat the Mercedes pair. Sebastian Vettel won in hot conditions in Malaysia and Hungary this year, with the Ferrari setup seemingly kinder on tires than the Mercedes on high-degradation hot tracks.

Off the track, most interest centers on the future of the Lotus team, with a further court hearing scheduled for Friday in London. That case will determine whether the debt-laden outfit goes into financial administration.

Renault is in talks with Lotus about buying a majority stake, with negotiations hinging on price and whether the new buyer takes on the debts.

Renault withdrew as a team from F1 after the scandal of the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix, when a deliberately engineered crash and track blockage by his teammate allowed Fernando Alonso to exploit the timing of the safety car and win the race against the odds.

Renault then became a highly successful engine supplier to a dominant Red Bull team, but failed to produce a competitive power unit for the V6 hybrid era which began last year, and public criticism by Red Bull stretched the relationship beyond breaking point.

Renault told Red Bull this week that it would not provide engines to the team beyond the end of this season, despite the existence of a contract until the end of 2016.

“We already alerted the Formula 1 authorities. Don’t count on us as a provider of an engine. It’s over,” Renault chairman and chief executive Carlos Ghosn said at the Frankfurt Motor Show. “You are in the game that when you perform very well you are never mentioned, and when there is a problem with the team you are the first guy to be pointed at.”

That left Renault’s future in the sport being either a return as a team in its own right, taking over the Lotus operation, or a very abrupt departure from F1.

“We will either exit or run our own team,” Ghosn said. “We don’t have a clear decision yet.”

Which option prevails will be influenced by ongoing negotiations between Renault and F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone on whether the French company gets a requested bonus payment for its historical contribution to the sport, in the same manner as Mercedes.

Such a bonus payment could allow Renault to meet the asking price of the current Lotus owners for a buyout.

Supercross 2023: Results and points after Houston

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Eli Tomac led all 23 laps of the Monster Energy Supercross race at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas and the results show he now has three wins in the season and is one shy of tying Ricky Carmichael’s 48 for third on the all-time list. With this win, he takes a seven point lead in the standings with 12 rounds remaining.

For Tomac at Houston, it was literally a tale of two races. Both his heat and the main started the same with Tomac grabbing the holeshot, but he was passed quickly by Chase Sexton in the heat. Tomac faded quickly after getting passed and was trailing by almost eight seconds at the checkered flag, which caused him to retreat to the hauler and reassess his lines. Without making any adjustments to the bike, Tomac entered the Main with a new attitude, and simply rode better.

Supercross Results Houston
Chase Sexton played it safe in the sand, but he was aggressive in every other turn. – Feld Motor Sports

Sexton had so great a lead in his heat that one could not even use the cliche that he left Tomac in his dust. By the time the rider with the No. 1 plate crossed the same real estate as the No. 23, the dust was well settled. Sexton had a modest start on the initial gate drop and ended Lap 1 in fourth. He worked his way past Aaron Plessinger on Lap 3 and got around Jason Anderson three laps later. Sexton was able to catch Tomac and pressure him, but he picked a safe, i.e. slow line through the sand section and could never get alongside his rival.

RESULTS: Click here for 450 Results; Click here for full 250 East Main Results

After starting the season with back-to-back seventh-place finishes, Anderson now has a pair of podiums. He won his heat and was easily one of the top three riders in the field, ultimately finishing behind the riders who finished 1-2 in the other preliminary. Anderson was subdued on the podium – happy he was there, but disappointed he has not yet found a way around the riders he is chasing in the points.

In the early stages of the race, Plessinger appeared to have a bike capable of winning. He pressured Tomac on the first two laps and was setting up the pass just as a red flag waved for an injury to Dylan Ferrandis that brought out a red flag. He lost second to Anderson on the restart and eventually slipped to fourth to score his first top-five of the season.

Click here for 450 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier

Cooper Webb rounded out the top five. Along with Sexton, he is now one of just two riders with a sweep of that mark in 2023, but with Tomac’s three wins, he is beginning to slip in the points. Webb sits third in the standings, 12 points behind the leader.

Ken Roczen entered the race as the third rider with a sweep of the top five and progressively better results in the first three races of 2023. Had the pattern held, he would have finished at least second, but he struggled for most of the night, finishing fifth in his heat and eighth in the Main. There may have been extenuating circumstances, however. Ferrandis’ injury was suffered when he landed on the back of Roczen’s bike and potentially damaged the No. 94 Suzuki.

Click here for 450 Main results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points | Lap Chart


The 250 East division made their 2023 debut in Houston, but the name atop the board was familiar. Hunter Lawrence joined his brother Jett Lawrence as the early points’ leader in their respective divisions, but it didn’t come without a little anxiety.

Riding behind Supercross newbie Tom Vialle on the second lap, Lawrence was forced to take evasive action when the leader pitched his bike sideways to scrub speed over a jump. Lawrence veered left and landed off course, but he cleared the Tuff Blox and kept his bike straight. Lawrence made the pass for the lead on Lap 18 and never relinquished it.

Click here for 250 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier

In his first attempt on a 250, Max Anstie ascended to the podium. – Feld Motor Sports

England’s Max Anstie made the move from 450s to 250s this year after scoring a best result of 11th on the big bike at Anaheim 2 last year. It didn’t take anytime at all to find the front for Anstie, who finished second in both his heat and main.

It has been a while since Jordon Smith stood on the podium: February 23, 2019 to be exact when he finished that well in Detroit. A series of injuries kept him off the bike for much of 2020 and 2021, but he’s proving to be a factor when he’s healthy.

Click here for 250 Main results | 250 East Rider Points | Combined Rider Points | Lap Chart

There was a lot of hype surrounding the debut of Haiden Deegan in the 250 class and he proved it was merited. He finished fourth in his heat and main. He was as far down as ninth at one point in the feature before slowly picking off riders on his way to the front.

Jeremy Martin finished fifth and now has a streak of three consecutive top-fives to his credit stretching back to last year. Unfortunately, his pair of strong runs in 2022 were interrupted by injury.

Making impressive debuts in the 250 division, Vialle recovered from a fall to finish seventh, Chance Hymas finished eighth, and Talon Hawkins just missed the top 10 with an 11th.

2023 Results

Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 1: Tomac, Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Chase Sexton falls
Week 1: Eli Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s