Nico Rosberg felt confident after scoring his fourth consecutive pole position in qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix on Saturday, but remains wary of how tire strategy may play out on the newly-surfaced Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit.
Formula 1 returns to Mexico for the first time since 1992 this weekend, and it was Rosberg who claimed pole position on Saturday after edging out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by two-tenths of a second at the end of Q3.
Speaking after the session, Rosberg was pleased to deliver on the pace that he had shown during practice in Mexico, but was cautious about the tire challenge posed by a green track.
“I just felt good all weekend,” Rosberg said. “I’ve been quick in all the sessions, and I found a good balance in qualifying. Thanks to my engineers and the team, I was able to push and get a good lap in.
“It’s a good start for sure, starting from pole. It’s a long run down to turn one so it’s going to be an exciting battle, and then I’m sure we have a good race car.
“It will be interesting tire-wise. There was some stuff going on on Friday which is going to be not so easy to handle in the race, I think, but we’re prepared well, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Rosberg and Hamilton came to blows in Austin over the latter’s aggressive overtake at turn one, but the German insisted that he would not be changing his approach as a result.
“It’s no different, it’s always going to be a battle and what’s in the past is in the past,” Rosberg said. “Now we move forward. It doesn’t change.”
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, qualifying third, tried to make light of the situation, saying to Rosberg and Hamilton: “Can you make sure you take both of you out so I can go through? Yes..? No..? I tried…” – he was met by silence from both Mercedes drivers.
Rosberg has converted just two of his last ten pole positions into a race win, and has not stood on the top step of the podium since the Austrian Grand Prix at the end of June.
Victory in Mexico would take Rosberg back ahead of Vettel in the race for second in the drivers’ championship, but with Hamilton keen to extend his win streak on Sunday, the German is likely to face a tough challenge from across the Mercedes garage.
The Mexican Grand Prix is live on NBC and Live Extra from 1:30pm ET on Sunday.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.