Williams Formula 1 technical chief Pat Symonds believes that keeping Valtteri Bottas is “crucial” to the team’s future success amid speculation that the Finn could move to Mercedes for 2017.
Following Nico Rosberg’s shock decision to retire from racing after winning his maiden F1 title at the end of November, Mercedes is currently in the process of signing a replacement for next season.
BBC Sport reported earlier this week that Williams had rejected an advance from Mercedes for Bottas, with the team apparently uneasy about fielding two young drivers in 2017 after being offered Pascal Wehrlein as a replacement.
Bottas is currently set to partner 18-year-old rookie Lance Stroll at Williams next year, with Symonds believing that an experienced driver who knows the team will be key to its success.
“We will have Lance Stroll on his debut, with no F1 experience, so to hold on to Bottas will be crucial for our success,” Symonds told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“People often underestimate the importance of continuity. Despite all the instruments we have, the driver is still the final link between the engineers and the data to be interpreted.
“You can replace one of them, but you need the other as a milestone, especially in a season of rule changes as 2017 will be.
“To lose him would have heavy consequences on the team.”
Bottas made his F1 debut with Williams back in 2013, and finished a career-high of fourth in the drivers’ championship during his sophomore season.
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.