Max Verstappen was upbeat following his first run in the Red Bull RB12 Formula 1 car during practice for the Spanish Grand Prix on Friday, but says it will take time for him to get totally comfortable with it following his swift promotion.
Red Bull announced last week that Verstappen would be joining the team from the Spanish Grand Prix onwards from junior team Toro Rosso, with Daniil Kvyat moving in the opposite direction.
Verstappen put in an impressive first display behind the wheel of Red Bull’s car on Friday in Barcelona, finishing within two-tenths of a second of new teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
“I’m happy, for a first day you can’t complain! We got through a lot of work and did a lot of laps and I think that’s the most important thing for me at the moment,” Verstappen said.
“I’m still getting used to the car, I don’t feel its full limit yet. It’s a new car, but I wasn’t nervous this morning, I just wanted to experience the car, I was eager to just go out and drive.
“I’m still learning a lot about the car; the seat position, the steering wheel position, all the switches and the procedures are all completely different to the Toro Rosso, but we are working on it and it’s getting better and better.
“Red Bull Racing is a good team and I enjoy working with them. If we have a good feeling tomorrow I will do my best and from there on we will see what happens.
“For sure you need a few weekends to be fully comfortable.”
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.
Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome in 1974, one of three races held during Supercross’ inaugural season along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. 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.