After Suzuka win, it is a question of when, not if, Hamilton wins third title

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Following the Singapore Grand Prix relative “disaster” for Mercedes AMG Petronas and Lewis Hamilton’s first and thus far only failure to finish this season, order and the form book was restored this past weekend with the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

Hamilton won, Rosberg was second, and Hamilton’s championship lead has increased back to 48 points over Rosberg with just five races to go in the 2015 Formula 1 season.

The points lead has swung a fair bit in the last two races. Hamilton’s win coupled with Rosberg’s late-race DNF at Monza just three races ago pushed the lead from a semi-close 28-point mark, just more than a race win worth of points, to a full 53 points – meaning Hamilton had a full two races banked before he might lose the points lead.

Rosberg could only close it back by 12 down to 41 after a fourth place in Singapore with Hamilton’s DNF. With Hamilton leading a 1-2 finish this weekend, the team’s eighth this season, the gap is now back to 48.

The good news for Rosberg is that regardless of what happens in two weeks’ time at Russia, he’ll have a mathematical – if remote – chance of overtaking him once the series hits North America for the United States, then Mexican Grands Prix.

But in all likelihood, it’s shaping up that Hamilton will secure his third World Championship in either Austin or Mexico City, and almost certainly by Interlagos.

If he does so at either circuit, it will mark the fifth different circuit in five years where a driver has clinched the World Championship.

Hamilton cannot clinch the title in Sochi in two weeks time.

With a lead of 48 points, another win and a non-points finish for Rosberg could extend Hamilton’s lead to a maximum potential number of 73 points leaving Sochi. A maximum of 100 points are still available in the final four races.

At that maximum gap, Hamilton would only need to score only two more points than Rosberg in Austin to clinch the title on U.S. soil.

It’s something that hasn’t happened at Austin, never happened at Indianapolis when it was late in the calendar from 2000 to 2003 and hasn’t happened in the U.S. since 1982, when Keke Rosberg took the crown at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas following a turbulent season. Nelson Piquet also won the title in Las Vegas a year earlier.

A more likely scenario is that if Hamilton and Rosberg ended 1-2 again in Sochi, Hamilton would have 55 points in hand going to Austin, and a third successive 1-2 – something which the pair has not done this season – would give him a 62-point lead going to Mexico City.

That’s in a best-case scenario for Rosberg if he can’t defeat Hamilton in either or both of the next two races.

He can’t overtake Hamilton in the next race and can only do so leaving Austin with two straight wins and two straight Hamilton non-scores, which is possible, but unlikely to occur.

If he’s down 62 at Mexico City, Rosberg would need to gain more than 12 points there – the easiest way would be a win with Hamilton fourth or worse – to keep any mathematical hopes alive going into Interlagos.

The last incarnation of the Mexican Grand Prix, run from 1986 to 1992, never saw a title clinched in those years. The race occurred in October, May, June and March; it will be held in November this year.

It would be the first time since 1968, when Graham Hill clinched the World Championship, that a title could be clinched at Mexico City. Hill emerged victorious over Jackie Stewart and Denny Hulme.

In simplest terms, if Hamilton wins the next two races and Rosberg fails to score at either Sochi or Austin, Hamilton wins the title at Austin.

If Hamilton continues to bank enough points and Rosberg stays mathematically alive through those two, it’ll most likely come down to Mexico City where he’ll wrap up a third title.

It would be fitting to see Hamilton clinch a title on North American soil, given his love, adoration and time spent in the U.S. and Latin America in recent years.

Additionally, if Hamilton wraps up the title before Abu Dhabi, as is likely, it will be the first time the title will be clinched ahead of the last race since Sebastian Vettel in 2013. It could be the fourth consecutive odd year the title gets wrapped prior to the last race (2013, 2011, 2009), and would be the first time Hamilton will have done so in his career.

And it seems highly likely we’ll be writing about Hamilton’s latest title being clinched in his third different location (Brazil in 2008, Abu Dhabi last year).

RACES WHERE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WAS CLINCHED, LAST 10 YEARS (CHAMPION)

  • 2014: Abu Dhabi, Race 19 of 19 (Lewis Hamilton)
  • 2013: India, Race 16 of 19 (Sebastian Vettel)
  • 2012: Brazil, Race 20 of 20 (Sebastian Vettel)
  • 2011: Japan, Race 15 of 19 (Sebastian Vettel)
  • 2010: Abu Dhabi, Race 19 of 19 (Sebastian Vettel)
  • 2009: Brazil, Race 16 of 17 (Jenson Button)
  • 2008: Brazil, Race 18 of 18 (Lewis Hamilton)
  • 2007: Brazil, Race 17 of 17 (Kimi Raikkonen)
  • 2006: Brazil, Race 18 of 18 (Fernando Alonso)
  • 2005: Brazil, Race 17 of 19 (Fernando Alonso)

RACES WHERE CHAMPIONSHIP WAS CLINCHED IN U.S. (CHAMPION)

  • 1982: Caesar’s Palace Grand Prix, Las Vegas, Race 16 of 16 (Keke Rosberg)
  • 1981: Caesar’s Palace Grand Prix, Las Vegas, Race 15 of 15 (Nelson Piquet)
  • 1977: U.S. Grand Prix East, Watkins Glen, Race 15 of 17 (Niki Lauda)
  • 1974: U.S. Grand Prix East, Watkins Glen, Race 15 of 15 (Emerson Fittipaldi)
  • 1970: U.S. Grand Prix East, Watkins Glen, Race 12 of 13 (Jochen Rindt)*
  • 1959: U.S. Grand Prix, Sebring, Race 9 of 9 (Jack Brabham)

*Posthumous World Champion

RACES WHERE CHAMPIONSHIP WAS CLINCHED IN MEXICO CITY 

  • 1968: Graham Hill
  • 1967: Denny Hulme
  • 1964: John Surtees

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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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.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

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 during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

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.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

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.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

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Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2