This past week saw the FIA Formula 1 World Championship return to on-track action as pre-season testing kicked off at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
However, the week was far from smooth, with weather conditions impacting two of the four days of testing, with Wednesday’s sessions effectively wiped out because of a combination of snow and rain.
However, the final day of testing this week, on Thursday, saw the weather give way to much better conditions, and F1 teams finished out the week with the busiest day of testing so far. Three drivers turned in over 100 laps – McLaren F1 Team’s Stoffel Vandoorne (110 laps), Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastien Vettel (120 laps), and Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly (147 laps), while Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Lewis Hamilton turned in the fastest lap of the week at 1:19.333.
McLaren also enjoyed a strong outing in the first week of testing, this after switching to Renault power units following a problematic three-year stretch with Honda. Both Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso ranked inside the top five on Thursday (Vandoorne second, Alonso fifth) while the team has enjoyed no significant mechanical problems so far, their only on-track issue coming on Day 1 when a broken wheel nut sent Alonso spinning off the track at the final corner.
Toro Rosso, which is now running Honda power units, has also enjoyed a trouble-free opening week, with Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly combining for over 300 laps of running between them.
Pre-season testing resumes on Monday.
Drivers Adapting to the Halo
The newly created halo that surrounds the cockpit of all 2018 Formula 1 cars has been a point of controversy ever since the concept was conceived.
“When you are sitting there you only see the center pillar and a small part of the wider one, but you are not looking there anyway. It’s a small thing in the middle and that’s it, I’m completely used to it and it’s fine,” said Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas. “It took a little bit of time to get used to it but it’s OK. It’s not been disturbing anything.”
Concerns, then, about the drivers’ ability to see appear to have been alleviated, although its appearance remains unpopular.
“I’m not impressed with the whole thing. If you give me a chainsaw I would take it off,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff asserted. “I think we need to look after the drivers’ safety but what we have implemented is aesthetically not appealing. We need to come up with a solution that simply looks better.”
F1 to Launch an Over-the-Top Streaming Service
Liberty Media and Formula 1 confirmed that an over-the-top streaming service, dubbed F1 TV, will become available early in the 2018 season.
The service will be similar in nature to ones offered by the FIM MotoGP and Superbike World Championships, featuring coverage of all on-track sessions, both live and on-demand, as well as coverage of several Formula 1 support series, such as the FIA Formula 2 Championship and the GP3 Series.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
Max Anstie – E
Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
Haiden Deegan – E
Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
Mitchell Oldenburg – W
Michael Mosiman – E
Jeremy Martin – E
Tom Vialle – E
Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
Chance Hymas – E
Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
Max Vohland – W
Cullin Park – E
Chris Blose – E
Derek Kelley – W
Enzo Lopes – W
Pierce Brown – W
* 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.