Premier Sim Gaming League’s PC championship visited the Land of the Rising Sun for the ninth round of Season 34. Suzuka delivered a stunning race, with Nicolas Longuet claiming his first PSGL win after fending off Jarno Opmeer on the final lap.
Brendon Leigh took another podium after overtaking Bari Broumand on the final lap to put the two-time F1 Esports champion within a sniff of the championship.
Dani Bereznay started last after his altercation with Lucas Blakeley at Austria. The Alpines of Ruben Pedreno and Luke Smith joined the Hungarian with Tom Manley. Ismael Fahssi was narrowly eliminated by 0.021 seconds, with Jarno Opmeer and Marcel Kiefer on the right side of the red line.
In Q2, Fabrizio Donoso failed to set a time, meaning he started 15th. Three Brits were ahead of the Chilean, with Shanaka Clay, Josh Idowu, and Alfie Butcher failing to progress into the final part of qualifying. Joni Tormala was the unlucky man in 11th as he continues to understand F1 23.
In the Q3 shootout, Brendon Leigh rolled back the years to claim his first pole since F1 2021 from Nicolas Longuet and his teammate Thomas Ronhaar. Bari Broumand lined up ahead of the Mercedes duo of Marcel Kiefer and Jarno Opmeer. Istvan Puki’s impressive F1 23 continued in seventh, with Frede Rasmussen, Jake Benham, and Otis Lawrence completing the top grid.
The leading contenders were on softs, apart from Ronhaar on the mediums, with Rasmussen, the lead driver on hard tyres. Opmeer got the jump on Kiefer off the line, and with overtaking proving difficult in the DRS train, it proved crucial for the Dutchman’s race. Whilst one Dutchman moved forward, his fellow countryman Ronhaar moved into second place at Kobayashi corner as the softs began to drop in performance.
Ronhaar swept past his teammate for the lead before an error saw Leigh and Longuet reovertook with DRS into Turn 1 on Lap 7. Due to the lack of overtaking, Tormala and Idowu pit on Lap 8 to try and elevate them towards the top end.
Broumand, Opmeer, Benham, and Lawrence covered the threat from the two Red Bull Racing family drivers, but the Welshman jumped the latter two to claim a net sixth. Longuet and Leigh boxed on Lap 10, leaving Ronhaar out in the lead, with Longuet opting for the mediums, with everyone around him choosing hards.
The Frenchman made his advantage count by sweeping past his teammate and Opmeer in successive laps to claim the race lead after Ronhaar boxed and filtered out behind Leigh. Rasmussen extended his stint to create a significant delta between compounds at the end of the race and eventually pit on Lap 15 with Manley and Pedreno.
Idowu began to struggle on his tyres, and Benham secured the first DRS train overtake all race on Lap 16 whilst his teammate began to slice through the field. The Great Dane got past Clay, Fahssi, and Tormala within a lap and brought Pedreno along.
Smith, Butcher, Kiefer, Lawrence, and Idowu were dispatched in the next couple of laps, promoting Rasmussen to seventh. Alfa Romeo opted to swap their drivers, with Ronhaar hounding Leigh for multiple laps. His first target was Broumand, launching an attack on the Ferrari at the final chicane on Lap 24, but he ended up in the gravel, falling behind his teammate and Rasmussen, who had overtaken Benham.
All eyes were on the fight for the podium and the race lead, with Longuet leading from Opmeer on the final lap. The grip from the mediums got the Frenchman just enough of a gap to fend off the two-time F1 Esports champion on the inside of Turn 2. Behind, Broumand ran out of ERS and was defenceless to Leigh and Rasmussen.
Opmeer got close heading into the final sector, but Longuet defended to claim his first PSGL win. Leigh held onto third from Rasmussen and Broumand, followed by Ronhaar, Pedreno and Benham: his best result since winning at Round 1. Idowu and Donoso completed the points positions after Bereznay and Butcher had a high speed accident at 130R.
Next up, a trip to Imola for Round 10 of Season 34.
- Nicolas Longuet – Ferrari
- Jarno Opmeer – Mercedes
- Brendon Leigh – Alfa Romeo
- Frede Rasmussen – Red Bull
- Bari Broumand – Ferrari
- Thomas Ronhaar – Alfa Romeo
- Ruben Pedreno – Alpine
- Jake Benham – Alpha Tauri
- Josh Idowu – Red Bull
- Fabrizio Donoso – Aston Martin