Lewis Hamilton expects the fight for the 2017 Formula 1 drivers’ championship with Sebastian Vettel to be one of the closest of his career after drawing level in the points standings with his first win of the season in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.
Hamilton lost out to Vettel at the season-opener in Australia two weeks ago, but bounced back in China by leading every lap of the race en route to his fifth win in Shanghai.
The result sees Hamilton tie with Vettel at the top of the drivers’ championship after the Ferrari driver finished second on Sunday, setting the tone for a season-long battle – something the Mercedes man relishes.
“I think it’s going to be one of the closest [title fights], if not the closest that I’ve ever experienced,” Hamilton said.
“I’m looking forward to this fight, not only with Sebastian but the other guys as well who are going to be in amongst it. Ferrari have done a fantastic job and I think its’ great that we’re both pushing.
“Those last 20 laps, really exchanging times. I kept having to be fed what times he was doing so I could try and match it. He was closing the gap a little bit, but managed to stay ahead.”
As well as the threat from Vettel, Hamilton also had to battle against the weather in Shanghai as rain in the lead-up to lights out left the track wet, warranting intermediate tires for the sport and making grip hard to find.
“Today was very, very tough for us all. I went out on the inters initially on the laps to the grid, and then I tried the slick which was impossible,” Hamilton explained.
“We all started on inters and it was very, very hard because there were dry patches everywhere, mostly dry. There were a couple of corners which were wet, so trying to keep the car on the track and look after the tyres at the same time was very, very tough.
“I just want to say a big thank you to this team, I’m just so tremendously proud of everyone, my own personal team and staff and that, and my team who work so hard back at the factory to make it possible.
“This race [against Ferrar] is so real, it’s so exciting for me personally. I don’t know how it is for everyone else, but I hope they’re enjoying it.”
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. 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.