The 2021 Ferrari Esports Series had its 14th December Grand Finals in sight, but before we could look ahead the final spots for participation were still to be claimed. Round 3 saw a new winner emerge as podium regular Maxime Batifoulier grabbed his maiden victory in Group B, while Group A’s Isaac Price picked up his second win at his home venue.
The final test would come at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps, with both grids taking to the 488 GT3 EVO 2020. A perfect combination hopefully creating the perfect crescendo to December’s fourth and final phase of the season.
Group A Qualifying
The good times kept on rolling for Price who claimed another pole position with eyes on asserting his authority over the group. Beside him on the front row would be Luca Vernole, whose timing could not have been better with seventh to 14th in the standings separated by just four points.
Monza race winner Kamil Pawlowski would make the second row alongside his countryman Wojciech Lukaszek, who, despite a non-score last time out, was comfortable in the bigger picture.
Group A Race
It wasn’t the start Vernole had hoped for, as both Pawlowski and Danilo Santoro escorted Vernole out of the podium places early on. Lukaszek also didn’t fare well, losing positions to Daniele Passardi and Niko Puntola; the Finn competing for the first time since the opening round of the phase.
It was a horror show for Bastien Marti, Josh Martin and Luca Tavernari in the opening four minutes, with all three written out of points contention through two separate major incidents. The entire midfield was in a mentality of ‘go big or go home’ and the quality of racing suffered massively for it.
The cards could not have fallen better for fifth-placed Puntola who, with 10 points, would certainly qualify for the Grand Finals. Perhaps overwhelmed with this knowledge in pursuit of Vernole, Puntola lost control at Raidillon, heavily damaging his purple 488. It was a truly heart-breaking sight over the next ten minutes as, despite soldiering on, his hopes turned to ashes.
No such worry for Price, who, with previous F1 Esports Series experience, will surely be the favourite heading into the Grand Finals. The eleven drivers behind him in the standings before the race remained the same, also booking their spots.
- Isaac Price – 32:10.751
- Kamil Pawlowski – +8.141
- Danilo Santoro – +12.295
- Luca Vernole – +17.912
- Wojciech Lukaszek – +21.174
- Daniele Passardi – +33.796
- Tony Beaugrand – +36.921
- Adrian Kot – +42.290
- Yuval Sharon- +42.921
- Alfonso Llorca – +45.064
Group B Qualifying
Mr. Consistency of Group B to this point, Leonardo Pagano flexed in Belgium to take his first pole position of the year ahead of Leonardo D’Alcamo; both drivers already safely qualified for December’s showdown.
The same couldn’t be said for Alessandro Miraglia, who would start from fourth position behind Joni Katila. The Italian lay five points away from the nearest threat to his Finals spot.
Safe in the knowledge that they had both secured their own places, Arnaud Lacombe and Maxime Batifoulier chose not to participate.
Group B Race
D’Alcamo seized the rare chance of a win in Group B with both hands at the getaway by taking the lead away from Pagano. Miraglia struggled as he dropped positions to both Maichol Tonizza and Ege Atinel initially before rescuing 5th from the Turkish driver.
Another huge absence from the race was that of Jakub Strumidlo who occupied 12th in the Group B standings. This gave huge incentive to anyone outside the qualifying positions to go for broke on an eighth place finish or better. The first five minutes saw pointless Dominik Ulman and Jurica Slovinac with two points in the critical battle seats.
The scrap would turn even spicier in the fallout of Miraglia re-overtaking Tonizza with the Italian finding himself off the road and rejoining outside the points. This placed Ulman in 6th with Slovinac 7th putting the likes of Jonathon Riley, Davide Adami and Haroldas Jotautus all at risk.
The Italian of the trio pulled an undoubtedly key move on his countryman Davide Bolognesi to guarantee himself another point with just over ten minutes left. Around the same time, the suspiciously quiet lead battle flared up into life as Katila lay on a saucy move around the outside of Pagano into Campus.
Adami’s day was about to turn sour on the other hand as a date with the Les Combes gravel undid all his good work before the nail was put in the coffin by a recovering Tonizza. The question would be if his prior results would be enough.
A win was certainly befitting D’Alcamo who never looked back after his excellent launch. The crucial result would be Jurica Slovinac in 7th, tying him on points for the final Grand Finals place with Adami. The Italian’s best result matched that of the Croatian meaning that, because he scored it earlier in the season, he was through by the skin of his teeth.
- Leonardo D’Alcamo – 32:18.722
- Joni Katila – +2.235
- Leonardo Pagano – +5.489
- Alessandro Miraglia – +7.850
- Ege Atinel – +16.232
- Dominik Ulman – +21.048
- Jurica Slovinac- +24.100
- Haroldas Jotautas – +27.836
- Davide Bolognesi – +28.387
- Maichol Tonizza – +29.101
Some may say Dominik Ulman was fortuitous in netting his ticket to the Grand Finals, but you have to put your name in the hat as the old saying goes. All things considered, he will most likely be a championship battle onlooker for the Ferrari Esports Series Grand Finals come 14th December.
With a Ferrari Driver Academy Esports contract on the line, will we see Isaac Price complete the transition from the blue of Williams to the red of the prancing horse? Could the Frenchmen of Group B capitalise on their voluntary rest? We’ll find out soon enough.