Alexander Rossi has been given dispensation to start tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix despite failing to post a time within the 107% cut-off required to qualify for a Formula 1 race.
In order to prevent underprepared drivers from racing, the FIA revived the 107% rule back in 2011 that requires anyone wishing to race to lap within 107% of the quickest time in Q1.
The rule has only been used sparingly since its inception (HRT in 2011 and 2012), with the majority of those falling outside the 107% time being allowed to race after displaying enough pace throughout the earlier stages of the weekend.
In Rossi’s case, this has proven to be true once again as the American’s practice pace was deemed to be sufficient by the stewards at Suzuka.
“The Stewards have received a request from Manor Marussia F1 Team to allow car 53 [Rossi] to start the race despite failing to set a qualifying time within 107% of the fastest time in Q1,” a statement from the stewards read.
“In accordance with Article 36.1 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations, the Stewards grant permission for car 53 Alexander Rossi to start the race, as the driver has set satisfactory times in practice at this event.”
Rossi was unable to post a time within the 107% cut off after having both of his flying laps ruined by yellow flag periods, limiting him to a best time of 1:47.114 – over six seconds slower than that of teammate Will Stevens.
“To have a yellow flag on both my push laps is just the worst luck,” Rossi said. “I’ve never had a situation like that, so I was pretty shocked and disappointed by what happened today.
“Obviously I’ve been well within 107% during the weekend and I know the procedures, but even so, it’s not a great feeling.
“There hasn’t been much dry running so far, so we haven’t had the best preparation for a dry race, but I’m enjoying the track and I know there’s a lot more to come.”
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.