Following the extraordinary conclusion to the real-world Formula 1 World Championship, it was time to turn our attention towards the F1 Esports Series Pro conclusion. Last time out, the misjudgement of Nicolas Longuet opened the door to reigning champion Jarno Opmeer, retaking the lead of the points standings once again.
His main rivals, Lucas Blakeley and Frederick Rasmussen lay just five and eight points behind respectively. Over in the Teams’ battle, just Mercedes-AMG and Red Bull remained. The Silver Arrows were gunning for their first title since 2018 whilst Red Bull was gunning for three titles in a row.
Plenty on the line then as Imola and Mexico were lined up on Wednesday evening.
It’s never too late in the season to enjoy a surprise and we certainly got one here with Josh Idowu taking his first pole position for McLaren Shadow, stepping in for the underperforming Dani Bereznay. In fine fettle, David Tonizza continued his excellent 2021 with second ahead of Dani Moreno and Blakeley; top of the major contenders.
Opmeer wasn’t too far behind in sixth, although Rasmussen dropped the ball to clock in a dismal P15 start.
The Dane found life much easier at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez with pole position ahead of Bardia Boroumandgohar. A rare top three appearance in Q3 for Opmeer was well-received in the Mercedes-AMG camp.
Idowu again dressed to impress as the Welshman netted sixth ahead of Blakeley, who this time would be the lowest starting of the spotlight trio. Importantly for the Teams’ championship, Marcel Kiefer out-qualified Moreno.
Although the launch and first lap were uneventful, nobody could be blamed with such high stakes on the line. Idowu and Tonizza both started on soft tyres and were expected to pull away in the early stages. Heading onto the fourth lap, this would aid Blakeley immensely as Moreno ahead had no DRS with which to defend a move around the outside of Turn 2.
Up the road, a similar move would be enacted by Tonizza who swept around Idowu to take the lead of the race on Lap 6. Staying in touch, the McLaren driver retook the lead three laps on. Behind, Mercedes radio was abound with suggestions of a ‘double overtake’ which was not coming to fruition.
One lap later, Idowu was in to try and cover off a potential Tonizza undercut strategy. More shocking was both Blakeley and Opmeer also diving in. The call landed perfectly for the Scotsman whose teammate for the race, Shanaka Clay, defended exquisitely to hold the championship leader up for a lap or so.
The cross-strategy shuffle was afoot. Burdened with a time penalty, Brendon Leigh was allowed to go after Idowu and ultimately passed the Welshman for the net race lead. Opmeer, meanwhile, got the better of Boroumandgohar at the beginning of Lap 13. One lap on would see Idowu once again snatch back the lead, though all the attention was on a nervy looking Blakeley who could not pass the wide Ferrari of Tonizza.
The time had come. Opmeer struck on Lap 15 and, to his credit, pulled off one of the moves of the season around the outside of Tosa to throw Blakeley off completely. A miserable day for Red Bull was about to get worse as Kiefer speared off into the wall up the hill after Acque Minerali; possibly handing the Teams’ championship to Mercedes on a silver platter.
Blakeley kept falling back. First behind Boroumandgohar, then behind his own teammate who had done so well to fend off Opmeer. A post-mortem discovered front wing damage after tapping the rear diffuser of Tonizza. As Lucas cried foul, the positions kept dropping until he was out of the points by the 17th lap.
The drama wouldn’t stop there. First, a huge collision between Boroumandgohar and Clay meant Blakeley was back into the top 10. Then, Tonizza overtook his penalty-bound teammate before Opmeer went lawn mowing hoping to capitalise. One of the earliest pitters onto soft rubber, the two-time champion was fading. Come Lap 20 both Mercedes cars were through.
Not famed for overtaking, this historical track had delivered, but there was one final lap to cement this race in the memory. Tonizza lunged for the lead into Tamburello leaving Idowu to take to the gravel. Clearly shaken, the young pole-sitter rejoined far too hastily into the side of Opmeer spinning him into the wall. Heartbreaking stuff.
Tonizza then would win his first race since Monza 2020 ahead of Opmeer and Rasmussen who had quietly gone about his business with deadly effectiveness; the drama suiting the Dane just fine. Blakeley managed to scrape a single point but his title hunt was likely done and dusted given the qualifying results for Mexico.
- David Tonizza – FDA Esports – 28:29.900
- Jarno Opmeer – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports – +1.112
- Frederik Rasmussen – Red Bull Racing Esports – +2.444
- Joni Törmälä – Scuderia AlphaTauri Esports – +2.842
- Brendon Leigh – FDA Esports – +5.487
- Michael Romanidis – Williams Esports – +5.557
- Dani Moreno – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports – +5.608
- Patrik Sipos – Alpine Esports Team – +6.697
- Simon Weigang – Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN F1 Esports – +9.251
- Lucas Blakeley – Aston Martin Cognizant Esports – +11.180
Fate had played its hand kindly towards Opmeer and he wasn’t about to rest on his laurels. From third on the grid, the Dutchman levelled his Mercedes on the inside of a duelling Rasmussen and Boroumandgohar to steal the lead away from both. With the top three all on soft tyres, everyone behind lay on the medium-first strategy.
Much like the opening half of Imola, things settled down into the rhythm. Kiefer was doing his utmost to keep Red Bull’s team hopes alive by overtaking Longuet. Boroumandgohar also chipped in with some help, passing Opmeer for the lead on the fifth lap. Both moves would be undone come Lap 8.
For such a patient and well-mannered man, Blakeley had visibly had enough of waiting this evening. Idowu fell prey to a huge send down the inside of Turn 4 with Kiefer almost collected through it all. The pitstop phase began on Lap 11 although the first lead car wouldn’t head in until Lap 12; that being Boroumandgohar.
Both Moreno and Leigh gained a number of positions by going aggressive with the strategy but perhaps one of the moves of the season came on Lap 14 via the unusually aggressive Blakeley. Initiated by Kiefer and Longuet coming together, this scuffle backed up Tonizza which gave the Aston Martin pilot all of the incentive required. Through Turns 6, 7, 8 and 9 they ran side-by-side before the Ferrari was forced to cede.
Another lull promised great rewards as a fourteen-car DRS train ominously grew larger in the rearview mirrors of third-placed Rasmussen. Lap 20 sparked the race into life, Boroumandgohar once again taking first off Opmeer whilst Blakeley danced around Kiefer in spectacular fashion.
Opmeer would find himself at the head of the pack after yet another three-wide scenario into Turn 1 with Rasmussen being stifled by the stubborn Boroumandgohar on Lap 21. The ultimate tactical masterclass was yet to come. The reigning champion was successfully able to avoid the mistakes made by Longuet in Austin and give up the lead whilst gaining the DRS down the pit straight.
With another win going the way of the Dutchman, this officially ruled Blakeley out of a fairy tale ending to the year. Even Rasmussen, finishing third, would have to be praying to whatever racing gods are listening in order to stop what appears to be the inevitable from happening.
Dani Moreno completed a fantastic race to come home fourth, therefore securing the Teams’ title for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports; its first since the Brendon Leigh era in 2018.
- Jarno Opmeer – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports – 32:29.216
- Bari Boroumandgohar – McLaren Shadow – +0.938
- Frederik Rasmussen – Red Bull Racing Esports – +1.031
- Dani Moreno – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports – +1.399
- Brendon Leigh – FDA Esports – +3.319
- Lucas Blakeley – Aston Martin Cognizant Esports – +3.530
- Nicolas Longuet – Alpine Esports Team – +3.827
- Marcel Kiefer – Red Bull Racing Esports – +3.957
- David Tonizza – FDA Esports – +4.015
- Joni Törmälä – Scuderia AlphaTauri Esports – +4.385