Once Massa leaves, F1 faces search for next Brazilian driver

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In the 68-year history of Formula 1 since 1950, only four countries have had representatives on the grid for at least 60 of those 68 years. The United Kingdom has had one all 68, the only country to do so, while Germany (64), France (63) and Italy (62) are next (a great overall grid, via the F1 Reddit page, is linked here).

Meanwhile the country that leads the way among all nations outside Europe, and fifth overall, is Brazil with 53 years represented on the grid.

Brazil has had at least one driver on the grid since 1970, with 1969 the last year there wasn’t a Brazilian racing in the sport. That 48-year active streak is second only to the U.K. among all nations.

Felipe Massa’s retirement in two races (which should be for real this time) will leave a gap to the next Brazilian driver, and it remains to be seen who will take up that mantle for the country that has given so much to the sport.

The country has provided eight total World Championships, third all-time only behind the U.K. (17) and Germany (12). The late Ayrton Senna won three titles, as did Nelson Piquet, with Emerson Fittipaldi winning two.

Massa’s famous last lap loss of the title at the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix despite winning that race stands as the closest a Brazilian has come to matching the three legends from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s as a champion.

Of course Massa and Rubens Barrichello enjoyed long careers of their own, each sort of taking up the mantle as the next primary Brazilian in the sport. Barrichello was thrust into carrying the torch after Senna’s passing in 1994, and then Massa flew the flag following Barrichello’s departure at the end of 2011. Fittingly, both have 11 career wins, Massa in 267 starts (270 entries) over his career that’s spanned from 2002 through 2017 (off in 2003) while Barrichello is F1’s all-time starts leader with 322 and 326 entries from 1993 through 2011.

The best hypothetical candidate would have been Massa’s similarly named countryman Felipe Nasr, but he faded out of F1 after a pair of tough seasons with Sauber in 2015 and 2016. He will now race full-time in North America next year, with the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Options do exist to take up the mantle after Massa, but aren’t on the immediate horizon for 2018.

Pietro Fittipaldi might be the best hope, the grandson of two-time World Champion Emerson, with his success in the World Series Formula V8 3.5 championship with Lotus coming only a few years after ending his NASCAR hopes. The 21-year-old, who was actually born in Miami, holds a 10-point lead over Russian driver Matevos Isaakyan before that series finale in Bahrain in two weeks’ time alongside the FIA World Endurance Championship. The younger Fittipaldi has six wins from 16 starts this year and could follow Emerson, Wilson and Christian as Fittipaldi F1 racers if he makes it, but he seems at least two years away at best.

The only active Brazilian in Formula 2 is Sergio Sette Camara, who completes his first season in the series this year. He ranks 12th in points, driving for MP Motorsport, with one sprint race win at Spa-Francorchamps. Sette Camara has tested an F1 car, with Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2016, but was dropped from Red Bull’s Junior Team after 2016.

GP3 is also short on Brazilian drivers. The only active one there is 20-year-old Bruno Baptista, but his best finish is only 10th on two occasions. He ranks 19th in points, last among any who have scored this year.

Nelson Piquet’s son Pedro Piquet, the half brother of Nelson Piquet Jr., raced this year in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. The 19-year-old finished 14th in points with a best finish of second at the Norisring. That sort of result doesn’t scream a Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon or Lance Stroll, in terms of leaping from F3 to F1.

Like Italy before it, Brazil faces a potential drought on the F1 grid for at least 2018 and potentially years to come if none of these drivers can work their way into the F1 arena, likely as test or development drivers or via junior programs.

Italy, like Brazil, put a driver on the grid from 1970 onwards, but saw its representation fall off after 2011 at the end of Jarno Trulli’s career. It was only this year, when Antonio Giovinazzi made two starts with Sauber filling in for Pascal Wehrlein to kick off the year, that Italy was back represented behind the wheel.

Brazil now faces a similar shortfall and without a star with which to welcome home next year, it’ll be interesting to see if there’s any adverse effect among Brazilian interest and at the Brazilian Grand Prix in years to come.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s

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After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points


The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage