Sebastian Vettel took confidence from Ferrari’s impressive showing in Friday’s Formula 1 practice running for the Malaysian Grand Prix, having finished as the fastest driver in the second session.
Vettel posted a new track record of 1:31.261 in FP2 to finish six-tenths of a second clear of Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, stamping his authority on proceedings early.
At a track Mercedes was expected to dominate at, title rival Lewis Hamilton struggled to sixth place overall in FP2, finishing over 1.4 seconds behind Vettel.
“This morning we had a bit of mixed conditions and there was not so much running. This afternoon it was better and the cars seemed to be quite OK right from the beginning of the session,” Vettel said.
“Then we tried something new, but unfortunately we couldn’t complete our program as we had wished to, because of the red flag.
“We’ll see what we can do tomorrow. It’s only Friday, usually the day when you spend time trying various things on the car.
“We would have liked to drive a little bit more, but overall it was a decent afternoon. We have a good car and it’s up to us to make it work in all conditions.”
Raikkonen was also frustrated by the loss of track time due to rain in FP1 and a late red flag in FP2 following a crash for Romain Grosjean, but was happy with how the day went.
“Today’s been OK and everything ran smoothly. In the morning we had wet conditions and only managed a few laps, and in the afternoon the session was cut short because of the issue with the track,” Raikkonen said.
“It’s a pity that we couldn’t use the whole session and do more timed laps, because for sure we could have further improved. But the car was feeling good.
“I made some mistakes on a new set of tires but apart from that it was a pretty straightforward day. Lap times don’t mean much today, as obviously we don’t know what everybody else was doing.”
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.