Wednesday night was almost certainly Lucas Blakeley’s best as an F1 Esports Series Pro driver. His sensational form, combined with a waning Jarno Opmeer, meant that with just four races left the Scot led the Drivers’ championship. It was a day to celebrate for Dani Moreno as well. The Spaniard picked up his maiden win and ensured that Mercedes-AMG remained on top in the Teams’ standings.
But this is one of the most high-pressure racing esports championships out there with a twist around every corner. Almost as many as the Circuit of the Americas which played host to the final round of the 2021 seasons’ third event.
Nicolas Longuet sat out Zandvoort with Patrick Sipos stepping in to demonstrate some potential. The Frenchman was right back into affairs Thursday afternoon, though, with a thrilling pole lap to defeat Bardia Boroumand by one-thousandth of a second. Opmeer also looked much more convincing with a third-place start, much improved over recent form.
Tonizza has struck a rich vein of speed recently and continued this with fourth on the grid ahead of the two Red Bulls. Frederik Rasmussen had visited the podium three consecutive times prior with a win followed by two-second places. Blakeley kept himself in the picture starting eighth.
Just like in real-world motorsport, the inside line for COTA’s first turn was advantageous and Boroumand’s electric start ensured that this factor was utilised fully. The Iranian took the lead handsomely aided also by Longuet’s choice to start on the medium compound tyres. Blakeley’s start was a little more perilous as the Aston Martin dropped two places immediately.
It transpired that Bari’s strategy was, in fact, the least popular by some margin as only three other drivers followed suit. One of these was Brendon Leigh who was travelling at quite a pace, finding himself in fourth by the beginning of the second lap. With second the Ferrari’s soon after, things were looking less rosy for Blakeley who had fallen even further to 12th.
Drastic measures had to be taken and, confident of the undercut potential, the championship leader made for the pits on the seventh lap. Having proven he could make tyres last just twenty-four hours prior, it seemed the smart person’s call in order to maximise damage limitation. Indeed, it was the right call as everyone around him was forced to respond or lose serious track position.
Once everyone had made their stops, Opmeer led from Longuet, Boroumand and Rasmussen with Blakeley up to fifth. The McLaren Shadow strategy just didn’t work out with the medium compound pace deficit pounced upon by Rasmussen. With his main closest title rival falling away in the final laps, Opmeer knew a win here could be season-defining.
Truth be told, all the cards were in Longuet’s hands who had remained patient in the wake of Opmeer. The Alpine had been saving tyres and ERS battery in order to steal the lead away at the opportune moment.
Sadly, the pressure was simply too much.
First, the Alpine driver made his move on Lap 19 out of 20, completely compromising his final lap defensive capabilities. When the final tour did arrive, rather than defend and hope for the best, Longuet tried to be too clever. In letting Opmeer and Rasmussen pass, thinking that he would have DRS down the huge back straight, he had actually forgotten where the detection line was. He had just gifted away two places at the sharp end of the grid.
Opmeer couldn’t believe his luck and took the full 25 point haul ahead of Rasmussen. With Blakeley ending up sixth, the championship lead was back in the hands of the Dutchman.
F1 Esports Series Pro, Round 9, Results
- Jarno Opmeer – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports – 31:47.009
- Frederick Rasmussen – Red Bull Racing Esports +0.278
- Nicolas Longuet – Alpine Esports Team +0.901
- Bari Boroumand – McLaren Shadow +1.256
- David Tonizza – FDA Esports +1.946
- Lucas Blakeley – Aston Martin Cognizant Esports +2.510
- Dani Moreno – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports +3.219
- Alavaro Carreton – Williams Esports +3.987
- Marcel Kiefer – Red Bull Racing Esports +4.530
- Sebastian Job – Scuderia AlphaTauri Esports +8.129