MEXICO CITY — Max Verstappen stretched his lead over Lewis Hamilton in the Formula One season championship with a dominant victory Sunday at the Mexico City Grand Prix, and Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez finished third to become the first Mexican driver to reach the podium in the history of the race.
Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas pulled a big surprise in qualifying when the Mercedes teammates earned their first front-row lockout of the season. Bottas was on pole, Hamilton second and Verstappen and Perez in third and fourth.
Their advantage didn’t last through the first corner.
Verstappen bolted off his line at the start and used the slipstream behind Bottas to snatch the lead into the first corner. Bottas, meanwhile, got tapped by McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and his car spun, dropping him to the back.
That left Hamilton in a Red Bull sandwich: Verstappen in front and Perez right behind, with Bottas no longer in play to help him defend his position.
And barely a third into the race, Verstappen was zooming off into the distance and Hamilton found himself in a desperate race with Perez to keep the critical championship points needed to keep Verstappen within sight over the final month of the season.
The home crowd roared when Perez briefly led after Hamilton and Verstappen pitted for new tires. That made him the first Mexican driver to lead the Mexico grand prix in race history. Perez earned a third consecutive podium finish for the first time in his career.
Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field
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.