Lewis Hamilton has apologized to his Mercedes Formula 1 team after his hopes of winning Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix were dashed by a five-second time penalty for going too slowly in the pit lane.
Following a safety car period sparked by a crash between Lance Stroll and Carlos Sainz Jr., Mercedes opted to pit drivers Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton on the same lap, stacking them in the pit lane.
In order to avoid losing time behind Bottas, Hamilton slowed his pace down before entering the pit lane to create a gap, backing up Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
While this was perfectly legal behind the safety car with no overtaking allowed on the live circuit, Hamilton was not allowed to do it after entering the pit lane, but continued to slow, resulting in a five-second time penalty.
The sanction prompted Mercedes to revise Hamilton’s tire strategy, bringing him in much later than planned for a second stop, and while the Briton was able to charge back to second after taking his penalty, he ultimately fell 6.6 seconds short of Vettel at the checkered flag.
“Obviously a very difficult race. It didn’t start out the best, but the pit lane was really my fault and so apologies to the team for losing the time there,” Hamilton said after the race.
“I tried my hardest to catch up but it was a long old way to go. It was 19 seconds. But I gave it everything I could. Ferrari did a great job today, so we’re going to push hard together, re-gather as a team and come back fighting.”
By finishing second to Vettel, Hamilton slips seven points behind his erstwhile rival in the drivers’ championship, and admitted he was disappointed to have cost Mercedes a chance at winning.
“Of course the disappointment is there. As I said, losing points for the team, particularly when you could have potentially won the race is painful,” Hamilton said.
“But it is what it is. All I can say is that I gave it everything I could.”
Hamilton will aim to regroup at the Russian Grand Prix, which takes place on March 30 in Sochi.
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.