Smith: Hamilton may be chilled, but should worry about Rosberg’s run

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When Nico Rosberg swept to three straight wins to close out the 2015 Formula 1 season, many observers thought little of it.

The German had indeed been faultless in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, but given that Lewis Hamilton had the championship sewn up in Austin, he could be forgiven for taking his foot off the gas.

A simple perusal of his rather vibrant Snapchat account was enough to tell you that Lewis was enjoying the high life in the wake of his title success, gracing red carpets and VIP parties all over the world.

Rosberg’s victories were impressive but meaningless in the grand scheme of things – but now that the streak stands at five after the first two races of 2016, should Hamilton be getting worried?

Sunday’s win in Bahrain was Rosberg doing what Rosberg does best: cool, calm, controlled driving. He turned up the wick when required, but otherwise monitored the gap to Kimi Raikkonen in second place. The result was never really in doubt.

Hamilton has been unlucky in the opening two rounds of the season, and is yet to have a real fight with Rosberg on track. A poor start in Australia dropped him back down the order, while a Turn 1 clash with Valtteri Bottas on Sunday left him with damage, making third place a considerable achievement.

Hamilton seem unbothered about the result after the race, telling reporters in the media pen that he felt “chilled” and was happy to have recovered to the podium. The 17 point deficit to Rosberg after two races doesn’t seem to bother him.

But it should.

Sure, it may only be two races out of 21, but Hamilton needs to end Rosberg’s run as soon as possible. Three races in a row with the championship settled may have been circumstantial, but five on the bounce? No driver has ever won that many and not taken the championship.

Chilled as Hamilton may be, Rosberg’s hot streak is surely cause for concern.

Lewis is continuing to make the most of his celebrity status and jet-set lifestyle. He stayed with the Crown Prince in Bahrain, using the studio that was built for Michael Jackson to work on his music, a passion that he continues to forge alongside his racing.

Even with so many interests – the cynic would perhaps call them distractions – outside of racing, Hamilton remains sharp on track. Bear in mind he beat Rosberg to pole in both Australia and Bahrain, the lap to P1 in the latter being particularly impressive. All he needs is a clean start and a little more luck, and the fight between the Mercedes drivers will be back on, just as fierce as ever.

All the while, Rosberg is revelling in this success. His quintet of wins takes him to 16 in F1 – nearly a third of his victories have come since the end of October – level with Stirling Moss as the most successful driver never to have won a championship.

Is 2016 set to be Nico’s year though?

Mathematically, the 17-point advantage may not be much, but the dominance that Mercedes appears to enjoy once again this year makes it significant. Assuming in a ‘normal’ race that the Silver Arrows finish one-two, Hamilton will need three wins to get back into the lead of the championship. By that reckoning, he may not hit the front until Spain, and even then, his advantage would be just four points after a quarter of the season.

The foundations for Hamilton’s title success in 2015 were laid in the first part of the season. He won three of the first four races and beat Rosberg in all of them, giving him a lead of 27 before F1 hit Europe. Another strong run began in Canada and lasted until he clinched the title in Austin, in which period Rosberg beat him on track just once.

When a team enjoys the kind of edge that Mercedes does, momentum is everything to the drivers. Hamilton’s last two championships have come largely thanks to runs of domination – which is exactly what Rosberg is putting together right now.

The Chinese Grand Prix has been a memorable race for both drivers over the years. It was the site of Hamilton’s demise in 2007 and one of his finest hours in 2008, while Rosberg won his very first grand prix there in 2012.

Yet the next race on April 17 could be the most important of them all. It could be where Hamilton ends Rosberg’s streak and wakes up in this title fight, or – more significantly – where Rosberg beats his rival in a straight on-track battle and makes it six wins in a row.

And by then, Hamilton would surely be getting worried.

The battle for the 2016 championship already appears to have more depth and excitement than last year’s ever did. Maybe this might just be Nico’s year.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Anaheim 2: Ken Roczen is consistency’s king

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Strength is found not only in outright wins, but also through consistency, which contributed to the rise of Ken Roczen in the SuperMotocross Rankings after Anaheim 2.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with the knowledge that he urgently needed change, so he declared himself a free agent, signed with Suzuki during the offseason and set upon 2023 with renewed determination. It worked. Roczen is one of three riders in the 450 class with a sweep of the top five and that consistency has given him the lead in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

SuperMotocross Rankings Anaheim 2
Like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield wall, Ken Roczen pointed his way to the Power Rankings lead. – Feld Motor Sports

This formula rewards riders who compete at the front of the pack at the end of the Mains, in their heats, or in last week’s case, the three motos that make up the Triple Crown. Roczen has improved his overall performance each week with a fifth in Anaheim 1, a fourth in San Diego and his first podium of 2023 in Anaheim 2. Can he keep the trend alive with a first- or second-place finish in Houston?

A fall is all it takes sometimes. Last week, Eli Tomac tumbled hard when he pushed wide on the exit of a turn and jumped on top of a Tuff Blox. He remounted after that incident in Race 3 of the Triple Crown, but could only manage a 13th-place result in the moto. It could have been much worse and resulted in an injury, but coupled with a sixth in the overall standings at Anaheim 2, it pushed him down a spot in the SuperMotocross Ranking.

Along with Roczen (and Chase Sexton), Cooper Webb swept the top five in Supercross’ first three rounds. He is knocking on the door of a win and it won’t take long for him to ascend to the top of the box. Webb has two victories in Houston and each of them came during a championship season.

If there is a more determined rider than Jason Anderson, get out of his way. His path to the front of the pack is not always lined with primroses since he often has to pass multiple riders with whom he has had a run-in during his path, but the SuperMotocross Power Rankings are concerned only with raw results – not intention – and Anaheim 2 was Anderson’s best race of the season. He earned his first top-five and first podium with a second-place finish that was aided by a moto win.

MORE: Triple Crown format shakes up A2’s finishing order

Dylan Ferrandis has also been a model of consistency. Last week his Triple Crown effort of 4-6-5 gave him an overall finish of fifth. That came on the heels of a fourth-place result in the season opener and a sixth in San Diego. With no result worse than sixth this season, the numbers add up quite well.

Sexton’s position just outside the top five this week is entirely attributable to his last-place result in the San Diego heat. The SuperMotocross Rankings looks at the past 45 days, so that will affect him for a while, but if he continues to ride like he did in Anaheim 2, he’s going to climb quickly despite that albatross around his neck.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Ken Roczen 84.63 3 2
2. Eli Tomac
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
83.25 1 -1
3. Cooper Webb 82.25 2 -1
4. Jason Anderson
[1 Heat win]
80.63 5 1
5. Dylan Ferrandis 78.75 4 -1
6. Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat wins]
77.75 9 3
7. Justin Barcia 67.88 6 -1
8. Aaron Plessinger 67.63 8 0
9. Adam Cianciarulo 67.25 7 -2
10. Joey Savatgy 61.00 11 1
10. Marvin Musquin 61.00 12 2
12. Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat win]
58.75 13 1
13. Christian Craig 56.13 14 1
14. Colt Nichols 56.00 10 -4
15. Dean Wilson 47.50 15 0
16. Tristan Lane 41.00 18 2
17. Grant Harlan 40.67 19 2
18. Justin Hill 40.57 16 -2
19. Logan Karnow 36.50 20 1
20. Alex Ray 36.00 21 1

Supercross Points


The 250 West riders get a couple of weeks off before heading to Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 and several of them need the rest. Tough weeks for Cameron McAdoo and RJ Hampshire forced them to lose ground in the SuperMotocross points to Jett Lawrence at a time that could prove to play mental games.

Lawrence also had his share of issues at Anaheim 2, but overcame early falls in the first two motos and finished no worse than sixth. Considering that he dropped to the tail of the field in Race 2, that was a remarkable accomplishment and he entered the final race with a shot at the overall win. He narrowly missed that mark, but still has not finished worse than second in three rounds. His lead in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings is safe.

Cameron McAdoo rode with injury in all three Triple Crown motos, so his sixth-place finish was a moral victory. Cameron McAdoo, Instagram

McAdoo said it best in an Instagram post this week: “Woke up feeling grateful that I’m relatively healthy after my big mistake during qualifying yesterday. We made the decision that it would be safe for me to race so I did everything I possibly could to get through the night ending up [sixth overall]. We will work on getting healed up in these few weeks off to come back strong for Oakland!”

With results of 8-7-5 in the Triple Crown and his combined sixth-place result, McAdoo lost significant ground to Lawrence in both the points’ standings and our Power formula. The Oakland race is going to be critical if he wants to stay in the championship hunt because the series will have a long break before returning in Seattle for Round 11. No one wants to sit with negative feelings for that long.

Mitchell Oldenburg has quietly amassed some impressive numbers. His name has not been called a lot during broadcasts, but he has not finished worse than seventh in any of the first three rounds. Themes develop during a season and weekend – and for the moment, this one revolves around reliability. Oldenburg finished 5-4-6 in Anaheim 2 which means he has consistently amassed SuperMotocross Power Rankings points.

Stilez Robertson won his first race of the season in Moto 2 of the Triple Crown. Coupled with a third-place finish in the final race, he leapfrogged Hampshire and Enzo Lopes, both of whom had disappointing outings. He stands fifth in the points’ standing mostly due to a ninth-place finish in the season opener, but each race has been progressively better and that is a good sign.

Sometimes, all it takes is a taste of success. Prior to Anaheim 2, Levi Kitchen’s best Supercross finish was a seventh earned in this year’s season opener. He scored a ninth at Minneapolis last year, but that was not enough to put him on the radar. This early in the season, one strong run can sway the SuperMotocross Power Ranking significantly, but Robertson has earned his way into the top five. More importantly, he’s going to be the object of interest when the West series returns to Oakland.

Next week the 250 East riders mount up in Houston, Texas before they head to Tampa, Florida. The Power Rankings will combine the two divisions, so the riders below are likely to shift dramatically.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
89.13 1 0
2. Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 3 1
3. Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 5 2
4. Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat win]
76.75 6 2
5. Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main win]
73.75 12 7
6. RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat wins]
70.00 2 -4
7. Max Vohland – W 69.29 8 1
8. Derek Kelley – W 63.75 10 2
9. Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 4 -5
10. Pierce Brown – W 61.29 13 3
11. Phil Nicoletti – W 59.25 7 -4
12. Dylan Walsh – W 56.00 9 -3
13. Cole Thompson – W 51.00 11 -2
14. Robbie Wageman – W 50.75 15 1
15. Anthony Rodriguez – W 49.00 14 -1
16. Ty Masterpool – W 47.50 16 0
17. Kaeden Amerine – W 47.50 16 -1
18. Dominique Thury – W 47.00 18 0
19. Austin Forkner – W 43.00 20 1
20. Derek Drake – W 42.33 21 1

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage