Twelve months ago, we here at Traxion.GG would not have blamed you had you not heard of the ‘Ferrari Esports Series’. Two primary factors may very well have fed into this rather anonymous stature in the sim racing world. First and foremost, the inaugural edition last year was a one-event wonder. Secondly, Ferrari as a brand still has the aura of not feeling fully invested in esports.
They will always be remembered as the last team to commit to Formula 1 Esports, running to this day as FDA Esports. The Ferrari is in there but under the cover of an acronym.
It was to the surprise of myself and many others that 2021 appeared to be a year where the Prancing Horse finally galloped into the modern day with purpose. A marquee signing of Brendon Leigh to the stable and a revamped Ferrari Esports Series spanning multiple phases across the year.
On the line? A prize that no amount of money could buy; an FDA contract as Giovanni De Salvo had earned.
After two rounds of qualification races, the third phase of the 2021 Ferrari Esports is when coverage really kicked up into gear. Two separate championships would be waged across two separate groups simply named Group A and Group B. From these initial pools of drivers would come twenty-four Grand Final participants.
There was much excitement regarding the variety of the competition. Four different makes of Ferrari were utilised across four different tracks. Although the cream would surely rise to the top, the various disciplines should have given different pilots an advantage between rounds. In theory at least.
The most high profile of the entrants was surely ex-Williams Esports free agent Isaac Price. The Brit had done well in 2021 making a mark in the ADAC GT Masters Esports Championship through his strong sense of strategy. With no pitstops, the Ferrari Esports Series was much more of a pace game although this didn’t seem to bother him.
In the opening bout at the Nürburgring in 488 Challenge Evos, Price took pole position and victory ahead of ultimately his closest rival in Group A, Kamil Pawlowski. Meanwhile, in Group B, proceedings were utterly dominated by Frenchman Arnaud Lacombe who won by an astounding fifteen seconds.
The margins wouldn’t be so gargantuan at the end of the month in Monza when Challenge Evos were exchanged for 599XX Evos. Though Lacombe found victory in Group B again, his advantage was slender as Leonardo D’Alcamo kept him honest. By this point, it was also clear to see that Maxime Batifoulier could play a part, picking up two podiums across the first two events.
Price also found the going tougher in Monza; even more so than Lacombe. Qualifying third behind fellow Nürburgring podium visitors Pawlowski and Danilo Santoro, he would have to settle for the same position when crossing the line thirty minutes on from lights out. Pawlowski would overcome Santoro’s pole position to take his first win of the phase.
Hard Application or Job Well Done?
With the FXX K rolled out for the Silverstone Circuit, Round 3 offered up some affirmation as to who was likely to be in the pot for Grand Final spoils. Once again the top three in Group A locked out the podium; a delighted Price taking pole and victory at his home race. All the more impressive was his actual race performance, losing out early to Pawlowski before pressuring the Polish driver into a mistake.
Over in Group B, Batifoulier finally found the sweet spot for race day. Not only did he take pole position ahead of his countryman, but the race pace was there to deny Lacombe a third straight win. There was no doubting here that both men had made it through to the Grand Finals and perhaps this might have played on the mind of Lacombe. He wasn’t holding back per se, but it wasn’t as if he was gunning for all or nothing.
This more ‘measured’ approach to the Ferrari Esports Series was taken to the extreme for the final round of the phase where both Lacombe and Batifoulier simply didn’t turn up. It raised a question of racing etiquette and whether the call for mandatory attendance should have been made.
In any case, this absence allowed the slightly inconsistent D’Alcamo to take his first win of the campaign as Price put any doubters to bed with a storming drive in Group A’s affairs. It, therefore, seemed that five, potentially six, candidates would be at the spearhead of the Grand Finals rostrum.
In Order To Finish First…
The finale to the season was a mini-championship comprising three races. Imola and Mugello would feature the 488 Challenge Evo seen in the first round of the third phase. Barcelona-Catalunya, the meat in the sandwich, switched things up slightly with the FXX-K that helped Batifoulier to his Group B Silverstone victory.
Of all the ‘frontrunners’ it was D’Alcamo, fresh off his own win, who snatched pole position for the opening race. Always one to net second on the grid, Pawlowski was at it again and crucially ahead of both favourites. For the first time, we would see Lacombe and Price together on track.
It wasn’t to last long.
As early as two corners in, the winners of either group found themselves tangled. Lacombe was much worse off, sent to the tail of the grid with a mountain of work to do just to rescue any points. He might have had a sinking feeling already at the time, but his chances really did go up in smoke here.
Pawlowski, on the other hand, was loving life. He had taken the lead and was managing D’Alcamo beautifully. As it transpired, he need not have worried as the young Italian was ripped from the race through disconnection. As brutal as this was, it offered Batifoulier and Santoro free podium slots thanks to Price being deemed at fault for the opening lap drama.
As the evening progressed, it was clear who fortune was favouring. A front row of Lacombe and Price was sweetly dismissed by third-placed Pawlowski who swept around the outside at Turn 1 in the second contest. Although he didn’t end up winning, the only man who could beat him was Price who now needed a heap of luck thanks to his Imola penalty.
Both Santoro and Batifoulier’s Barcelona woes effectively meant that unless the Polish talent had a miserable Mugello, it was his for the taking. And boy did he take it. The final race of the season was a masterclass in consistency. From pole position, Pawlowski continued to edge out the lead gap until a point where it was unassailable.
He may have been the proverbial bridesmaid to Price in Group A, but in the Grand Finals? The bouquet and FDA contract was all his.
Ferrari Esports Series 2021, Grand Final Standings
- Kamil Pawlowski – 68 pts
- Isaac Price – 51 pts
- Danilo Santoro – 40 pts
- Leonardo D’Alcamo – 27 pts
- Maxime Batifoulier – 26 pts
- Adrian Kot – 23 pts
- Josh Martin – 20 pts
- Joni Katila – 15 pts
- Maichol Tonizza – 14 pts
- Umberto Principi – 8 pts