The Formula 1 Esports Series Pro never disappoints. Mirroring its insane real-life counterpart, the 2021 season would see three title protagonists head into the last three races all with sensational narratives behind them.
Frederik Rasmussen, the long-serving Red Bull maestro eager to win his first title. Lucas Blakeley, the surprise underdog who nobody was predicting to be in the hunt. Jarno Opmeer, eyeing up the moniker of most successful F1 Esports driver of all time.
Given that this championship is one of the most-watched sim racing esports championships, I’ll go ahead and assume that you know Opmeer saw off his rivals to clinch his second consecutive Drivers’ title. In the process, he of course helped Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports Team to their first Teams’ crown since 2018.
As for whether he became the best of all time? Let’s leave that to the end of this review and look back on what was a remarkable year.
“It’s been a new experience for me. It’s a privilege to be in this position and I’m just grateful I’m doing this in the first place. The nerves? I expected them to be much worse than they are now but I’ve been focused on the details. Be prepared to the best level I can be. I’ll let you know once I get to qualifying!”
These were the words of Aston Martin’s Lucas Blakeley on Monday before he headed into Event 4, his first as a championship protagonist. Although Imola would ultimately be the race that put a stop to the fairy tail, one cannot ignore how the Scot (amongst others) has set up a whole new era for the championship.
Blakeley’s return of 162 points for 2021 eclipses his 2020 total ten times over and has put Aston Martin on the map with third place in the Teams’ battle. When he crossed the line in Bahrain (the opening race of the season) to take his maiden win, nobody quite knew how to react. As I attended press conferences and got to know the drivers more, Lucas stood out as someone who was thriving in his environment. So prepared, yet so talkative and friendly.
Dani Moreno built upon his ‘Rookie of the Year’ 2020 season to help Opmeer guide Mercedes to the Team’s championship itself. The Spaniard’s highlight was surely the inaugural round to feature Zandvoort Circuit where the first win of his career was secured in fine fashion. Though off days in Belgium and Brazil took a little shine away from an otherwise solid campaign, Moreno can look forward to 2022. Hopes of replicating the domination seen by Brendon Leigh-Daniel Bereznay in 2018 is strong.
Bardia Boroumandgohar meanwhile came into this year rejected by the Mercedes team. In McLaren Shadow, he found a new home and proceeded to absolutely embarrass the aforementioned Bereznay. Though unable to find the gold trophy himself, ‘Bari’ did something Moreno could not in securing not just one but two pole positions.
We don’t know how the next game may affect form and confidence. What I am certain of is that many would relish the thought of Moreno and Boroumandgohar in particular raising their level once again.
“I’m still going to go for the win. If it’s not this season it’ll be next season. I have 100 per cent personal belief in myself that I am the best driver on the grid.”
It has been quite the scare for some of the more established names in the scenes. The quote above comes from a fascinating chat with two-times champion Leigh who seemed genuinely happy at the halfway point of the season. This is in spite of only three points-scoring finishes for new team FDA Esports.
Leigh’s talent is not to be denied but a downward trajectory has solidified over time. From winning his latest world title with Mercedes in 2018, he followed that up with fifth in 2019, sixth in 2020 and now 10th in 2021 scoring exactly half of what he achieved the year prior. The Brit hasn’t won in three years, he hasn’t visited the podium all season for the first time in his career.
2022 will be a massive twelve months with big improvement required.
Plenty of questions will surely be asked by Nicolas Longuet over the off-season, not least to himself. It hasn’t been a bad set of results, just underwhelming. Three pole positions was the most of anyone this season yet his in-race decisions left a lot to be desired. By far the most egregious mistake came at the United States race where a tactical blunder gifted the win to Opmeer.
Then there’s the truly baffling case of Dani Bereznay. His worst season since 2017, his first season with no points scored. When he was expected to lead the team he got outscored by third driver Josh Idowu who has seemingly usurped his ‘main duo’ spot.
“You really don’t know what’s going to happen. One mistake can change it all around. Lucas, Frede and I are all favourites and I’m going to just try and enjoy those last few races.”
As the reigning champion, Jarno Opmeer didn’t have the smoothest of title defences. It surprises many to discover that Rasmussen actually scored more top-three finishes over the season, the Dane’s 17th in Shanghai really destroying his title charge in hindsight.
Qualifying performances were all over the place truthfully and the Dutchman will be the first to admit to that. Sure pole positions in Austria and Monza were nice, but multiple Q2 eliminations weren’t befitting a driver of his calibre. It was really down to Jarno’s attitude and strategic synergy with race engineers that helped rescue marvellous results from nothing.
Funnily enough, it could be argued that Shanghai was where Opmeer won the title as much as Rasmussen lost it.
Returning to the hot topic at hand then. Is Jarno Opmeer the best F1 Esports driver of all time? Statistically speaking? Not just yet. The strength in depth of the grid has increased hugely over the last couple of years so that the likes of Leigh’s reign may never be seen again.
The hard work has been put in over a long time. His goal is within sight. To equal Leigh? Opmeer is just one race win away…
F1 Esports Series Pro 2021 Drivers’ standings
- Jarno Opmeer – 195 pts
- Frederik Rasmussen – 187 pts
- Lucas Blakeley – 162 pts
- Dani Moreno – 100 pts
- Bardia Boroumand – 98 pts
- David Tonizza – 83 pts
- Marcel Kiefer – 71 pts
- Nicolas Longuet – 69 pts
- Fabrizio Donoso – 46 pts
- Brendon Leigh – 42 pts