The eighth race of the 2022 F1 Esports Series Pro Championship saw Jarno Opmeer return to winning ways, as track limits penalties run amok.
Another race, another Thomas Ronhaar headline act. Haas could barely have dreamed of the impact its Dutch rookie would have on the 2022 Formula 1 Esports Pro Championship, but there he sat; third in the points standings.
Had it not been for his retirement in Bahrain, one might even have considered him a genuine threat for the title.
As things stood, arriving at the virtual Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, he lay almost a race win’s worth of points behind Lucas Blakeley. The Scot had led the pack since the first points were scored this season yet was losing ground to Frederick Rasmussen bit by bit.
There can be no slip-ups in this ultra-competitive championship and both title protagonists know this all too well.
Monza was a mixed bag for Red Bull Racing Esport’s Dane. A so-so qualifying effort was converted into a decent points haul; crucially more than Blakeley.
For the eighth round, he would start in pole position ahead of Ronhaar. Josh Idowu was searching for a third podium in four races from fourth on the grid.
After what was surely the nail in the coffin for his second title defence, Jarno Opmeer looked re-energised posting one of his best single laps of the year. The Dutchman started third well ahead of the two McLaren Shadows who disappointed based on recent form. Bardia Boroumand lay eighth, one place ahead of Blakeley.
Both papaya machines enjoyed the best starts by far. They cruised down the longest run to a first corner on the calendar making their way up to fifth and sixth whilst switching places between themselves. This made sense as Boroumand had chosen the same hard compound of tyre for his opening stint as Ronhaar had.
Blakeley was on the mediums along with Idowu, Opmeer and Rasmussen. The former two of that trio cruised past the Haas demoting Ronhaar to fourth. Warming up the rubber was proving far too tricky and before he knew it, the Dutchman was behind the flying Scotsman himself.
Nicolas Longuet had let himself down in qualifying as he exceeded track limits twice in Q3, setting no lap time when he was easily in the mix for pole position. His redemption drive had started well, opting for the medium tyres and making his way up to fifth after 10 laps had been completed. By this stage, the top four had broken away from Ronhaar by just over two seconds.
With that sort of gap, it was logical that the Frenchman would be the first of the medium runners to pit. He did so on the 13th lap, hoping to cut the gap to fourth down with a fresh pair of boots. Idowu and Blakeley were in two rotations on, forcing the hand of Rasmussen but not Opmeer.
The reigning champion gave himself over a minute’s worth of free air and utilised every second beautifully.
His Mercedes left pitroad ahead of Rasmussen who had been fending off Idowu during that time. On the other side of the strategy coin, Boroumand and Ronhaar were storming up the order with ease. Both were shoe-ins for the podium barring extraordinary circumstances.
Of all the elements to impact a race, however, it was to be a backmarker that helped decide the outcome.
Still to pit, Daniele Haddad led the race before Opmeer relieved him of his post. This was done at a crucial time before the twists of the second and third sectors; Rasmussen was stuck behind with no blue flags to assist him.
DRS window broken, Opmeer was untroubled until the end of the race. In winning his first race of the season, Jarno had become the joint-most successful F1 Esports driver of all time – equal with Brendon Leigh.
To the relief of an underwhelming Blakeley, Rasmussen would not claim any points, despite finishing third on the road. The pole sitter looked very out of character, going over the line in combat with Ronhaar and picking up a three-second penalty.
F1 ESPORTS SERIES PRO 2022, RACE 8 RESULTS
- Jarno Opmeer – Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Esports – 47.23.592
- Bardia Boroumand – McLaren Shadow +3.487
- Thomas Ronhaar – Haas F1 Team Esports +4.425
- Marcel Kiefer – Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Esports +5.000
- Josh Idowu – Scuderia AlphaTauri Esports +5.421
- Lucas Blakeley – McLaren Shadow +8.525
- Nicolas Longuet – Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN Esports +8.966
- Jake Benham – Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Esports +9.138
- Shanaka Clay – Williams Esports +11.704
- Joni Törmälä – Scuderia AlphaTauri Esports +11.892