Announced back in March of this year, the Ferrari Esports Series sees yet another manufacturer enter the championship organiser party that has engulfed sim racing over the course of the global pandemic. The process of the Series itself has been lengthy, with Hotlap Qualifying and Qualification Race stages leading up to this moment in time.
The grand prize is essentially a contract with the Ferrari Driver Academy Esports team, brushing shoulders with the likes of two times F1 Esports Series champion Brendon Leigh. In order to represent the prancing horse, you have to prove you’re the best of the class.
Group A qualifying
Each broadcast features two groups of 24 drivers, each with their own qualifying and race sessions. The Nürburgring would play host to the first set of races with ex-Williams Esports driver Isaac Price taking the first pole position of the Series stage. Thrustmaster pilot Kamil Pawlowski would join the Brit on the front row.
F1 Esports pedigree was expected but the variety of drivers is no doubt impressive in the Ferrari Esports Series. The second row demonstrated this with Carrera Cup Italia alumni Danilo Santoro joined by relative unknown Niko Puntola.
Group A Race
Each race lasts thirty minutes in length with the top ten scoring points at its conclusion from the heights of 25 for a win down to one for 10th.
Price, who would claim his latest race win just days later in the ADAC GT Masters Esports Championship, was under heavy pressure down into Turn 1 but fended off Pawlowski. Puntola meanwhile successfully passed Santoro for third. The white-accented 488 Challenge Evo would reclaim the position just a lap later, however.
Puntola would sadly continue going backwards after contact with Luca Vernole would drop the Finn back to seventh whilst Wojciech Lukaszek capitalised up to fourth. The Italian was mostly unaffected but would find trouble again later on dropping down to nineth. Utilising a full VR setup, there would be a third spout of drama as a helpless Alfonso Llorca would be spun by Vernole.
The front three were in a class of their own, however. Price claimed maximum points at the first time of asking from Pawlowski and Santoro.
- Isaac Price – 31:51.874
- Kamil Pawlowski – +1.365
- Danilo Santoro – +1.667
- Wojciech Lukaszek – +10.380
- Angelo Colavitto – +13.559
- Niko Puntola – +14.261
- Umberto Principi – +14.733
- Luca Vernole* – +23.375
- Bastien Marti – +26.555
- Luca Tavernari – +27.037
Group B qualifying
It would be a stablemate of Pawlowski’s at Thrustmaster who would claim pole position in Group B; Frenchman Arnaud Lacombe the man of the moment. Behind him would be the brother of current FDA driver David, Maichol Tonizza, though the gap between the pair in qualifying lay at an eye-watering seven-tenths almost.
Experienced SRO GT driver Maxime Batifoulier would ensure a strong representation for Les Bleus on the front two rows whilst another Finn would find their way to P4; Joni Katila on this occasion.
Group B Race
Lacombe was surely the hot favourite to win in Group B and his navy blue machine was unopposed into Turn 1 and through the Mercedes Arena. Jonathan Riley and Jurica Slovinac were highlights of a tight midfield pack, the Brit on top in the opening duel. Ahead of them for the opening few minutes was Mattia Dagoni but sadly for the Italian his chances of points would be dashed through the NGK Chicane after lighting up the tyres on the exit.
Large swathes of the race would pass before finally, with thirteen minutes left, attention would focus on Riley and his strong pace again. Getting antsy behind Alessandro Miraglia, the white and blue Ferrari darted every which way but inadvertently opened the door to Slovinac behind. Exiting the Warsteiner-Kurve, contact was initiated by the Croatian and round went the Brit. A strong drive unrewarded.
Though the battle for second, third and fourth was very watchable, Lacombe was utterly dominant – sending a message over to Group A. Tonizza and Batifoulier would round out the podium.
- Arnaud Lacombe – 31:44.376
- Maichol Tonizza +14.953
- Maxime Batifoulier +15.385
- Joni Katila +16.008
- Leonardo Pagano +19.065
- Alessandro Miraglia +28.909
- Jurica Slovinac +29.327
- Ege Atinel +29.738
- Davide Bolognesi +31.595
- Jakub Strumidlo +34.809
The goal by the end of the Series stage is simple; be in the top twelve drivers of your group standings. Price and Lacombe have claimed 25 points apiece but intrigue has already begun given Lacombe’s total race time was some seven seconds faster than Price’s.
This phase of the Ferrari Esports Series will continue with Round 2, racing on 25th September and broadcast on 28th September on twitch.tv/FerrariEsports.