Haas to question F1 future if sport doesn’t become more competitive

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Gene Haas will consider the future of his eponymous Formula 1 team if steps are not made to make the sport more competitive and fix the “almost unsolvable” problem of how to cut the gap between teams.

Since Lotus won the 2013 Australian Grand Prix with Kimi Raikkonen, just three teams – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – have won every Grand Prix since, starting with round two of that season in Malaysia. The close-knit midfield teams have rarely had a chance to fight at the front of the pack, and podiums for other teams beyond those three have been sparse.

Following its takeover of F1 in January, Liberty Media has been tasked with finding ways to make the sport more competitive and give the midfielders more of a fighting chance instead of making up the numbers – something Haas is keen to see.

“They’ve very patiently listened to us and they’ve talked to all the teams, and they’re formulating a strategy that they’re going to release later this year,” Haas told NBCSN.

“We’re all anticipating how they’re going to solve that problem, because it sounds like it’s a problem that’s almost unsolvable.

“In last practice [on Friday at Monza], the first three cars were all within a second, and the next 10 cars were all within a second.

“There’s a big gap. There’s definitely a big racing gap between the front-runners and the team at the back.”

F1’s youngest team, Haas F1 Team has impressed since making its debut at the start of 2016, but has not finished a race any higher than fifth, the result coming in just its second grand prix.

A number of options to reduce costs and narrow the gap between teams throughout the field have been suggested, including spec parts or a budget cap.

While Haas doubts anything can be done to reduce the gap, he stressed the need for some kind of unpredictability in F1.

“If anything, my point of view is that it’s a gap we can’t reduce. With what our current resources are and what we know, it seems an impossible gap to reduce,” Haas said.

“I think some of it is that the top three teams are maybe quasi-manufacturers, and since they run the whole car and make the whole car, they understand it a lot better.

“So we’re always going to be at somewhat of a disadvantage to the manufacturers who understand the car better than we do.

“But I think there needs to be some kind of a randomness in the sport where even a team in the back has some possibility of winning once in a while.

“Not every race, but if you can never win in this sport, it’s really not going to be much of a sport.”

When asked if he was considering his team’s future in F1, Haas said: “Well we’re certainly committed to Formula 1.

“But if we never have a chance to win, I’d really have to question why we’re here.

“I think every team should have at least some possibility of winning a race once in a while, through a fuel strategy or some alternative.

“But the gap’s so big now that I just don’t see how we can possibly close it.”

Haas currently sits seventh in F1’s constructors’ championship on 35 points after 12 rounds, having already exceeded its score from 2016 thanks to contributions from drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.

By comparison, Mercedes sits on top of the teams’ table on 392 points ahead of Ferrari on 348 and Red Bull on 199.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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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.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

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 during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

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.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

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.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

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Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
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Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2