The F1 Esports Pro Series’ second 2021 event was something to savour in the memory for Red Bull Racing Esports as the reigning Teams’ champions netted a victory in all three races. Frederick Rasmussen was back to his fighting best whilst Marcel Kiefer denied pole-sitter Jarno Opmeer in a wild Monza spectacle.
Our feature on two-time World Champion Brendon Leigh gave us great insight into the past and present, but Event 3 would bring the future with two debut venues in the championship’s history. The Algarve International Circuit and Zandvoort would play scene-setter for a return to the United States on Thursday.
After claiming his first-ever win at the season opener in Bahrain, Lucas Blakeley’s unlikely title challenge received a well-timed boost with a first career pole. His unbridled joy would be shared on the front row with David Tonizza who hit the podium once more in Belgium; his first top-three finish in twelve months.
Conversely, Dani Moreno clocked in his first non-points score of the season at Spa-Francorchamps though looked to bounce back quickly with a P3 start here. His teammate was nowhere to be found in Q3 once again, continuing a worrying trend for the points leader.
Bardia Boroumandgohar would put McLaren Shadow back on pole position for the second time this season with a 1:09.125 at Zandvoort. Rasmussen was narrowly close to his own second P1, but would have to settle for second.
Blakeley’s day got even better with another top-three start for Wednesday, although the standout hero of qualifying would be Patrik Sipos. Recently praised by teammate Nicholas Longuet, the Frenchman stepped aside for the rookie who put his name on the map just half a tenth off the front of the grid.
The opening lap would have gone as well as Blakeley had hoped with no real challenge from Tonizza early doors. Behind everything remained status quo for the most part, with Opmeer the sole exception slicing his way up to eighth by the conclusion of the first lap. Well placed Fabrizio Donoso and Joni Törmälä were both eyeing up at least a repeat of their best results of the season.
The brutal pace of Aston Martin’s flying Scotsman ensured that DRS was not an option for the Ferrari behind when the overtaking aid came into force on the fourth lap. Tonizza was no match for Moreno who swept past into second.
Törmälä, just a few laps later, would be the first of the front runners to dive pitlane bound; the top five all starting the race of Soft-compound tyres. As the Finn pulled the trigger on strategy, Moreno and Tonizza exchanged positions once more.
Seeing the way the wind was blowing, the 2019 champion responded to AlphaTauri’s ploy immediately with Donoso in a lap later and then Blakeley and Moreno a further lap on. Moreno would be the big loser initially here, dropping to net fifth as Rasmussen took the lead with his alternate strategy.
The Dane would spring his trap heading onto Lap 13, surviving a pit exit scuffle with Opmeer who had settled in nicely behind his Mercedes teammate. The Red Bull looked ominous on its initial charge, throwing Moreno and Törmälä to the wind. Tonizza would be next having fallen behind Donoso, though the Chilean wasn’t much of a fight in the dying embers of Lap 16.
Despite late-race carnage ensuing behind in the scrap for the final podium spot, for Blakeley it was oh so quiet with no race engineers communications or Red Bull in sight. The title race was well and truly back on as Opmeer would be forced to settle for seventh.
- Lucas Blakeley – Aston Martin Cognizant Esports – 30:19.587
- Frederik Rasmussen – Red Bull Racing Esports – +1.956
- Fabrizio Donoso – Alpine Esports Team – +6.917
- Dani Moreno – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports – +7.877
- Joni Törmälä – Scuderia AlphaTauri Esports – +7.877
- David Tonizza – FDA Esports – +8.075
- Jarno Opmeer – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports – +8.083
- Michael Romanidis – Williams Esports – +9.653
- Marcel Kiefer – Red Bull Racing Esports – +10.165
- Barl Boroumandgohar – McLaren Shadow – +10.737
We were treated to a thrilling opening half a lap for F1 Esports’ first trip to the Netherlands as Rasmussen challenged Boroumandgohar side-by-side before the Iranian simply had to concede through Scheivlak. Sipos continued to raise eyebrows as the Hungarian could smell second, but held back to maintain third after jumping Blakeley; the Scot choosing to go bold on the alternate medium compound strategy.
There would be some exceptionally early pitstops come the fifth lap, as Moreno was joined by Törmälä in an effort to jump the DRS train the entire field had become a part of. This seemingly forced the hand of Rasmussen and Opmeer, who were in the following tour. By the eighth lap, all soft compound tyre runners were in, confirming the Dane’s net lead ahead of Moreno and Boroumandgohar.
At this stage, it was clear that the ‘alternate’ strategy was dubious at best. Blakeley, upon receiving notifications of the undercut potential, was advised to pit for a 16-lap soft stint. Certainly optimistic if he hoped to rescue a good result. He would filter back into the pack behind Sipos but crucially ahead of Opmeer. This would pay great dividends as, deploying his ERS stores, the Aston Martin was soon clear of the young Alpine driver.
Confidence is such a form swinger for sim racers and Blakeley was displaying tonnes of it. A steely lunge on Boroumandgohar into Tarzan saw him up to net third as the two Ferraris, both originally on the same race plan as him, made their stops ending up in the lower points positions.
Some time would pass before the next major change in the order as with six runs around Zandvoort left on the counter, Moreno made his move on Rasmussen. The key variable here was the Red Bull pilot’s willingness to sanction the pass, perhaps hoping for a chance late game to nick the victory back. Meanwhile, having taken advantage of contact between Leigh and Opmeer, Tonizza was on a barnstormer, passing cars left and right.
Ultimately, Rasmussen gamble would backfire as Moreno had enough energy stored to fend off every challenge for his first win in F1 Esports Series Pro. A hugely impressive stint from Blakeley ensured that he would lead the Drivers’ championship heading into Thursday.
- Dani Moreno – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports – 30:14.364
- Frederik Rasmussen – Red Bull Racing Esports – +0.238
- Lucas Blakeley – Aston Martin Cognizant Esports – +0.687
- Bari Boroumandgohar – McLaren Shadow – +1.571
- David Tonizza – FDA Esports – +2.009
- Jarno Opmeer – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports – +2.811
- Joni Törmälä – Scuderia AlphaTauri Esports – +3.090
- Patrik Sipos – Alpine Esports Team – +3.916
- Brendon Leigh – FDA Esports – +4.188
- Marcel Kiefer – Red Bull Racing Esports – +4.639