It all seemed so hopeless for double-champion Jarno Opmeer heading into the Formula 1 Esports Series’ third set of rounds in 2022. Mirroring the woes of the real-world Mercedes team, he and his teammates barely registered in either title fight. A sole podium in Bahrain and a fourth-place finish at Zandvoort were the only roots of comfort.
Fast-foward to Round 10 and two back-to-back wins had dragged the Dutchman into a five-way title fight to the end. It could have been even better had it not been for a miserable evening in Monza, Italy.
At the top of the standings, twenty-two points ahead of Opmeer lay Lucas Blakeley. The Scot’s consistency was serving him well but an eleven-point gap back to rookie upstart Thomas Ronhaar hardly inspired total confidence.
Nobody expected this Dutchman to be the closest to the top of the championship, yet there he was taking yet another pole position around Suzuka Circuit. The legendary venue played host to Wednesday’s (14th December 2022) action and would see another promising qualifying performance from Nicolas Longuet who made the front row impressively.
Patrick Sipos stunned the field with a third-place-worthy lap in Q3, taking his Alpine ahead of Frederik Rasmussen. The McLaren duo of Blakeley and Bardia Boroumand served up decent laps to lock in sixth and seventh respectively. Sadly, for Opmeer himself, another Q1 exit severely damaged his hopes of maintaining his miraculous resurgence.
Having already continued his streak of at least one podium during every season participated in, Longuet recognised this as the best chance to snatch a win for himself in 2022. An impeccable launch on Medium compound rubber saw the Frenchman cruise into the lead through Tarzanbocht. Sipos went the other way, dropping from third to seventh in a matter of corners.
Daniel Bereznay was a benefactor of his compatriot’s dodgy start and made the most of his good fortune. Also bound to Medium tyres for his first stint, Rasmussen was no match into the Casio Triangle at the end of the first lap. Ronhaar put up a bit more of a fight, keeping Bereznay at bay even after being passed.
With his lead gap beginning to decrease, Longuet called time on his opening stint after Lap 11. There was plenty of room after pit exit for the Alfa Romeo pilot to put the hammer down in this crossover phase. Bereznay and Blakeley were next in; the Scot was a surprising one at this early stage but the plan was to prioritise undercut potential over tyre life.
The benefits were immediately apparent. Bereznay was no doubt stunned to witness Blakeley fly around the outside of the Turn 11 hairpin. Every frontrunner yet to pit did so with haste. Ronhaar proved to be the sole exception and his patience turned out some excellent results. Upon re-joining the track, his gap to chase had been cut by a full second.
Everything was falling into place for a Ronhaar win but for the timely intervention of a rogue Jake Benham. The second of the Mercedes had yet to pit and was legitimately fighting for position having not taken a pitstop. Longuet met the Englishman down the main straight and cruised by without effort. Ronhaar, meanwhile, caught Benham mid-S Curves almost crashing into the back of the Silver Arrow machine.
By the time Benham’s brutal defence had been broken, Longuet’s lead had been stretched back out to three seconds. It would require the entire remaining lap count for Ronhaar to hunt him down once more but it was all for nought. Longuet had kept ahead of the storm and was well rewarded with victory. Ronhaar and Rasmussen completed the podium, closing up the Drivers’ championship as Blakeley finished fourth.
2022 F1 Esports Series Pro Championship: Round 10 results
- Nicolas Longuet – Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN Esports – 41:32.192
- Thomas Ronhaar – Haas F1 Team Esports – +1.162
- Frederik Rasmussen – Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Esports – +1.675
- Lucas Blakeley – McLaren Shadow – +3.362
- Bardia Boroumand – McLaren Shadow – +7.243
- Brendon Leigh – Scuderia Ferrari Velas Esports – +13.059
- Matthijs van Erven – Haas F1 Team Esports – +13.138
- Fabrizio Donoso – Scuderia Ferrari Velas Esports – +13.059
- Sebastian Job – Scuderia AlphaTauri Esports – +13.426
- Daniel Bereznay – Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN Esports – +14.888