Premier Sim Gaming League’s top PC tier visited the Styrian Mountains in Austria for Round 3 of Season 31. With last week’s race winner Jarno Opmeer absent due to racing in the V10 R-league for Mercedes, it was a chance for those to gain some crucial points on the two-time F1 Esports champion who sat second in the championship.
After a solitary podium finish in the opening round, Lucas Blakeley took advantage of the Dutchman’s absence, putting himself back into the championship hunt with his second PSGL F1 win. But it did not come without a scare from the stewards.
Thomas Ronhaar produced one of the great pole laps in PSGL but missed out on a debut win in second. Brendon Leigh completed the podium after multiple incidents elevated him onto the third step.
PSGL Round 3: Qualifying
Marcel Kiefer was the shock casualty in Q1, only managing 18th, his second Q1 elimination in the first three races. The German joined his fellow countryman Simon Weigang, who lagged out of qualifying and started last.
Matthijs Van Erven was knocked out by 0.004 seconds in 16th, with Patrik Sipos and Louis Welch completing the elimination zone.
Josh Idowu topped Q2, but his teammate Joni Tormula narrowly missed out on Q3 by 0.008 seconds, with Alvaro Carreton just sneaking through in 10th.
Carreton’s teammate Daniele Haddad joined Tormula on the sixth row, with Piotr Statchulec, two-time PSGL champion Wilson Hughes and F2 champion Samuel Bean also eliminated.
The Welshman could not continue the momentum from Q2. Instead, Thomas Ronhaar claimed his second pole in a row with an incredible lap time of 1:03.551: nearly a tenth clear of second place.
Newly announced Alfa Romeo F1 Esports driver Nicolas Longuet joined the Dutchman on the front row, with the championship leader Bari Boroumand completing the top three.
Donoso completed row two, followed by Idowu and Carreton. Blakeley managed seventh after messing up the final sector on his last attempt.
Frede Rasmussen, Brendon Leigh and Jake Benham completed the final spots inside the top 10 to set up an intriguing grid for the Austrian Grand Prix.
PSGL Round 3: Race
Despite free tyre choice for the entire field, everyone started on the hard tyres to switch to the mediums around the midway point of the race.
Longuet got off the line well and challenged the pole sitter into Turn 1. Ronhaar held him off, leaving the Frenchman vulnerable to Boroumand from behind, but the Iranian could not find his way past.
Idowu dove up the inside of Donoso into Turn 4 and moved into the top four whilst Leigh moved up three spots from ninth to reignite the Ferrari war from Bahrain.
As Longuet passed Ronhaar for the lead, there was more action behind. Blakeley passed Carreton and Idowu being spun around by Donoso, dropping the Welshman down to tenth behind Rasmussen.
The top two kept swapping before the pit stop phase triggered by Hughes and Kiefer on Lap 16 after failing to make progress in the first stint.
The pitlane flurried into action on the following lap with Blakeley, Benham, Rasmussen, Stachulec, and Bean looking to cover the Scotsman and the German and undercut those ahead.
Blakeley narrowly avoided a penalty for extending the pit lane entry at the penultimate corner, but Benham went beyond the limits and earned himself a 5-second penalty.
The top three continued, with fourth-placed Donoso, Van Erven, Carreton, Idowu, and Sipos entering the pits on Lap 18. The one-lap undercut was crucial for Blakeley and Benham, elevating them from seventh and eighth and ahead of Donoso.
Longuet and Boroumand’s overcut did not pay off: the Frenchman filtered out behind Benham and Donoso jumping the Iranian. Ronhaar’s overcut did not pay off and ended up behind Boroumand into a net sixth but had considerably better tyres than those ahead.
He made his first move on Donoso after the Chilean got a poor exit following Boroumand making a dive into Turn 3 on the Ferrari ahead. Ronhaar was on the grass on the straight, but Veloce’s academy driver moved into the top five into Turn 4.
It was further pain for the Chilean as a mistake into Turn 1 allowed Rasmussen, Idowu, and Carreton to move ahead of the Ferrari Esports driver.
That brought the two Ferrari neck-and-neck with Leigh, seemingly remembering their previous duel at Bahrain, barged his teammate off track at Turn 3, taking ninth place.
With seven laps remaining, drama ensued at the front as Boroumand braked a touch too late, carried too much speed into Turn 3, and hit the rear of Longuet’s car, dropping the Alfa Romeo to seventh place. When defending from eighth-placed Carreton, he forced the Spaniard off the track and picked up a post-race penalty, as did Boroumand for the incident at Turn 3.
With four laps remaining, drivers started to be more adventurous on the brakes to make up some crucial places. Boroumand was attacking Benham at Turn 3 and tried an audacious move around the outside of the young Englishmen. The Iranian got a decent exit, but the Haas and McLaren’s wheels got locked, inviting Ronhaar to strike and move into second place with his sights on the race win.
It went from bad to worse for Boroumand as Rasmussen made his way past on the next lap after burning his ERS into Turn 3.
On the penultimate lap, Boroumand was under pressure from his McLaren Shadow teammate Josh Idowu. The Welshman dove to the inside but could not get the car slowed down in time and tapped the right rear of Rasmussen, and the Dane spun and fell outside the points.
All eyes were on the battle for the lead on the final lap between Blakeley, Ronhaar and Benham. The Scotsman tried to let the Dutchman in the Mercedes past into Turn 1 and therefore pick up the DRS, but Ronhaar was wise to it.
The two went side by side into Turn 3, with Ronhaar producing a nice move on the outside, but crucially, Blakeley had the DRS into Turn 4.
The two banged wheels, but the DRS advantage gave Veloce’s new signing the edge on their academy driver. Benham was lurking behind but could not make a move, meaning Lucas Blakeley claimed his first PSGL win of the season.
Ronhaar and Benham provisionally claimed the podium spots, but the Englishmen’s penalty dropped him down to seventh.
Leigh inherited the podium ahead of Carreton and Stachulec, who finished eighth and ninth on the road respectively. Rasmussen finished sixth after Idowu got a penalty for their collision at Turn 3, with Longuet, Kiefer, and Boroumand completing the top 10 positions.
Next week, PSGL heads to Miami for its inaugural race around the Hard Rock Stadium at 7pm on Wednesday night.
PSGL Round 3: Race Results
- Lucas Blakeley – 40:34.956
- Thomas Ronhaar +0.266
- Brendon Leigh +1.433
- Alvaro Carreton +2.739
- Piotr Stachulec +3.950
- Frede Rasmussen +5.055
- Jake Benham +5.462
- Nicolas Longuet +6.043
- Marcel Kiefer +6.389
- Bari Boroumand +6.733