Lucas Blakeley scored a pivotal victory at Suzuka to get back in the Season 31 PC PSGL title race.
Lucas Blakeley elevated himself back into Premier Sim Gaming League’s F1 22 championship hunt after a stunning performance at Suzuka, whilst his teammate had troubles.
Boroumand picked up a post-race penalty and finished in ninth, which invited Jarno Opmeer back into the championship picture after his second-place finish.
Tomek Poradzisz scored his first podium on F1 22 after a difficult start to the game cycle for the 2022 PC Challengers Champion.
PSGL Round 7: Qualifying
Brendon Leigh and Dani Moreno were the shock eliminations in Q1 after the latter made a huge mistake out of the final corner to deny him a shot of progressing on his PSGL return.
Joni Tormula started 17th between the former and current Mercedes drivers, with the Aston Martin pair of John Evans and Simon Weigang on the back row of the grid.
There were even more high-profile calamities in Q2, with the reigning champion Jarno Opmeer eliminated for the fourth time this season. The two-time F1 Esports champion lined up alongside Marcel Kiefer in 11th, who was impressive in Q1 in second.
Fabrizio Donoso, Patrik Sipos, and Jake Benham, who crashed on his in-lap on his first run, joined the German and the Dutchman in the elimination zone.
The McLarens had dominated qualifying but struggled throughout qualifying to get to the top of the timesheets. Instead, the returning Thomas Ronhaar secured his third pole position of the season with a 1:27.852.
Blakeley, who was 16 points behind his teammate ahead of the race, wrestled his McLaren into second place – five places ahead of his championship rival Bari Boroumand in seventh.
Alvaro Carreton pipped Frede Rasmussen to third with the Alfa Romeo duo of Tomek Poradzisz and Dani Bereznay on third row.
Daniele Haddad, Wilson Hughes, and Sebastian Job completed the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix.
PSGL Round 7: Race
Unlike in previous races this season, seven drivers were opting to start on the medium tyres, including four of the top six: Ronhaar and Rasmussen starting on the hards.
No formation lap meant cold tyres, and Blakeley made the extra grip work to lead into Turn 1. Carreton managed to squeeze past the Dutchman and move up into second.
It was bad news for Poradzisz and Bereznay as they failed to pass the Veloce development driver until Sector 3, meaning they lost DRS to the top two.
Hughes, also starting on the mediums, made his way past Ronhaar on Lap 2, but crucially for Ronhaar, he had broken the DRS to Rasmussen behind. The Dutchman was being pulled along by Hughes, with his hard tyres up to temperature.
The race entered a lull as drivers struggled to follow each other through the first sector other than Tormula, who made great use of his medium tyres before spinning at the Dunlop Curve.
Out in front, Blakeley stretched his advantage to over a second, with Poradzisz managing to get the DRS of Carreton in second.
After a disappointing qualifying, Jarno Opmeer was up to 11th, which became sixth when the Top 5 all pitted between Lap 10 to 13 and ended up in the same order as they pitted in.
It moved Ronhaar into the race lead, from Rasmussen, Boroumand, Haddad, Opmeer, Donoso, Sipos, Kiefer and Weigang.
Rasmussen, Haddad, and Weigang boxed on Lap 14, with Boroumand, Donoso, and Sipos following them on the next lap.
The Dane managed to overcut the Iranian and into a net fifth place as he looked to close in on his championship advantage.
Those who stayed out, their eyes lit up when Hughes and Job went side by side through Degner 1, with the pair going off the circuit and into the gravel.
The Scot rejoined into the path of Leigh, who avoided the accident, but it seemingly spooked Haddad, who lost the car on the kerb and crashed into the wall and out of the race.
The Safety Car was out, meaning Ronhaar, Opmeer, and Kiefer could gain time whilst they pit and the others trundled around the Suzuka circuit.
The polesitter jumped ahead of Bereznay into fourth, the two-time F1 Esports champion moved ahead of his two championship rivals into sixth, and Kiefer moved up into the final position in the points.
Or so he thought.
Incredibly, both Carreton and Rasmussen spun behind the safety car generating some temperature in their tyres. The Spaniard dropped to seventh, and Rasmussen opted to retire.
With ten laps remaining, Blakeley led the field at the Safety Car restart with drama further behind. On his fresher medium tyres, Opmeer tried a Kobayashi-Esque move at the hairpin, but half spun his former Alfa Romeo teammate.
The two retained their positions, but it allowed Carreton to get ahead of Boroumand momentarily before the Iranian hit the Spaniard off at Spoon: a move which earned him a penalty post-race.
The reigning PSGL champion avoided a penalty post-race and overtook the Hungarian into Turn 1 and into fourth place.
The Hungarian was under attack from behind, and Boroumand did what Opmeer could not and launched a move up the inside of the hairpin, and he took fifth place.
With five laps remaining, Ronhaar launched his first attack on Poradzisz’s second place, using all his battery from Spoon through 130R to get close to the Polish driver.
But Ronhaar’s lunge was too late, and he slammed into the side of Blakeley ahead, the Scot lucky to avoid damage and half spun down to fourth.
Opmeer was on the prowl after his fellow Dutchman’s error, and he had saved up his battery after Poradzisz used his when defending from Ronhaar.
The latter picked up damage from clashing with Blakeley and dropped to sixth on Lap 25 after Boroumand and Kiefer swept past.
Back to the front and on the penultimate lap, Opmeer used his battery in a similar vein to Ronhaar to get himself close for an opportunity into Turn 1. Despite all the ERS, the DRS saved Poradzisz after Blakeley seemingly slowed to help in his bid for the win, meaning Opmeer could not squeeze past, and his chance of victory had gone.
The Dutchman continued his relentless pressure on the 2022 PC Challengers Champion and used his remaining deployment down the back straight and went around the outside of Poradzisz at the final chicane to move up to second.
No one could stop Blakeley, and the Scotsman took his third win of the season to move back into the championship hunt.
Kiefer came home fourth after passing Boroumand on the final lap. Bereznay completed the top five, with his former teammate Leigh in sixth.
Ronhaar, Carreton, Boroumand after his post-race penalty, and Weigang completed the points at Suzuka.
The gap returns to one point as it did at the midway point of the season between the two McLaren drivers. Opmeer moves to within 19 points off the championship lead and remains a contender with three races left.
Next up. PSGL returns to Monza, where the infamous desync race occurred back on F1 2021. Will we see a similar amount of drama as S31 enters its conclusion? Tune in on the Premier Sim Gaming Leagues YouTube channel for Round 8 on Wednesday at 7pm BST.
PSGL Round 7: Race Results
- Lucas Blakeley
- Jarno Opmeer
- Tomek Poradzisz
- Marcel Kiefer
- Dani Bereznay
- Brendon Leigh
- Thomas Ronhaar
- Alvaro Carreton
- Bari Boroumand
- Simon Weigang