Everyone deserves a relaxing Spa day, even the Premier Sim Gaming League during their fifth round of Season 31 in beautiful Belgium. Lucas Blakeley snagged his second win in three races after taking advantage of his teammate’s mistake to close the championship advantage down to one point heading into the second half of the season.
Bari Boroumand spun himself out of contention for the win and podium spots, but recovered to take fifth. Former Mercedes teammates, Dani Bereznay and Brendon Leigh, completed the podium after the latter got a time penalty removed.
For the second time this season, the reigning F1 Esports and PSGL champion, Jarno Opmeer, was out in Q1 after the Dutchman lacked pace around a circuit where he had won the last two PSGL races. His teammate for this round, Samuel Bean, joined Opmeer on the back row.
Thijmen Schutte, Filip Presnajder and Joni Tormula joined the two Mercedes in the Q1 elimination zone, with Lucas Blakeley squeezing through on one set of tyres by 0.040 seconds.
Fabrizio Donoso lagged out of the session and started in 15th, lining up alongside his former Alpine teammate Patrik Sipos on the grid. 2022 PC Challengers runner-up, Piotr Stachulec, narrowly missed out on the final part of qualifying, as did the Williams duo of Alvaro Carreton and Daniele Haddad.
Once again, the McLarens locked out the front row for the third time in five races, with Boroumand beating his teammate by 0.006 seconds to take back-to-back pole positions.
Bereznay, who has an affinity for Spa, lined up in third, with McLaren Shadow academy driver Wilson Hughes starting fourth.
Tomek Poradzisz completed the top five, with Brendon Leigh, Simon Weigang, Jake Benham, Marcel Kiefer and Josh Idowu rounding out the top 10.
Unlike in previous weeks, there were different strategies for the race start. The fifth row of Kiefer and Idowu opted for the soft tyres, Benham and Schutte started on the mediums, whilst the rest of the field began on the hard.
The German had an incredible start from ninth, moving up into second by the end of Sector 2, as the rest of the grid struggled for tyre temperature. It was a relatively clean start for the other drivers, aside from Stachulec, who retired in the pitlane.
Kiefer moved ahead of Boroumand at Les Combes on Lap 2 and stretched his legs out front as the soft tyres would melt about five laps into the race. Benham made excellent progress on the mediums and passed Blakeley for third whilst Idowu was stuck behind Hughes. The Welshman picked up a time penalty and retired in the pitlane shortly after. Kiefer boxed at the end of Lap 5 after getting himself a two-second lead, fitting the hard tyres to go to the end of the race.
A DRS train had formed amongst those yet to stop with the field so close, meaning overtaking was limited.
Blakeley managed to get back past Benham after the Englishman forced the Scotsman off the track at Les Combes with the pair going wheel-to-wheel into Bruxelles, with Blakeley getting past to make it a McLaren 1-2.
The medium began to drop off, and Benham pitted on Lap 9, as did Leigh, who was looking for the undercut down in sixth. The Scottish duo covered off the undercut from the two-time F1 Esports champion, but Hughes did not quite have the pace on the in-lap and was behind Leigh.
Boroumand and Bereznay responded the following lap, with the Iranian filtering out clear off his teammate and the Hungarian behind his former Mercedes teammate, Leigh.
That was only for a matter of corners as Hughes pulled off an unorthodox move around the outside of Bereznay at Bruxelles, after the Alfa Romeo driver struggled for tyre temperature.
The fight was not for the net lead, with Kiefer on the hard tyres. The Red Bull driver, who got into Q3 for the first time this season, was helpless in defence from the two McLarens and dropped down to third. Or so he thought.
After taking the net lead, Boroumand spun on the exit of Les Combes and down into ninth place, with the top two yet to stop. Dutchmen duo Schutte and Opmeer stayed out hoping for a safety car after the two-time F1 Esports champion had made no progress from 19th on the grid.
The pair stopped on Lap 15 and 16, respectively, for the softs and finished outside the points, meaning Opmeer’s hopes of a fourth PSGL PC title would take a massive blow.
Kiefer dropped down into fifth after Hughes and Bereznay passed the German down the Kemmel Straight, and on the following lap, the Hungarian moved ahead to take the final spot on the podium.
Boroumand began his recovery with a simple move on Benham into Les Combes for sixth whilst his teammate broke the DRS range from Leigh and stretched his lead out front. After losing DRS, Bereznay eased past Leigh and moved into second place. The pace of the McLarens was clear of the rest of the field. The Iranian passed Kiefer on his hard tyres, and by the end of Lap 20, he had caught the back of the DRS train in the fight for second place.
Further back, there was a seven-car fight for eighth.
Carreton led Poradzisz, Weigang, Donoso, Tormula, Bean and Presnajder, and wanted to pick up the DRS heading down to Eau Rouge. The Pole was not having any of it and lifted off, meaning Carreton had to accelerate.
Behind, Weigang was approaching at full speed. Through Eau Rouge and Radillon, the German was spun around by Poradzisz, denying him a shot at points: Carreton and Poradzisz picked up penalties for their part in the incidents before the end of Sector 1.
There were no such incidents for Blakeley, who picked up his third PSGL win in six races and his second in the last three. Bereznay and Leigh completed the podium, with Hughes scoring his best result of the season in fourth.
Boroumand recovered to finish fifth ahead of Kiefer, Benham, Tormula, Bean and Presnajder, rounding out the top 10 positions.
At the midway point of the season, Boroumand’s advantage is a solitary point from Blakeley, with Frederik Rasmussen, who was absent from the race, and Opmeer over 20 points back.
Next up, PSGL heads to North America for the third time this season for the Mexican Grand Prix. Wilson Hughes took victory in the social race on F1 2021 after a brilliant fight with Jake Benham and Luke Smith.
Can Mercedes recover from a dismal day at Spa or will McLaren continue their momentum in the second half of the season?
Make sure to tune in on Wednesday at 7pm BST on the Premier Sim Gaming League YouTube channel.
PSGL S31 ROUND 5: RACE RESULTS
- Lucas Blakeley – 39:13.089
- Dani Bereznay +3.705
- Brendon Leigh +5.102
- Wilson Hughes +5.352
- Bari Boroumand +5.731
- Marcel Kiefer +7.371
- Jake Benham +7.869
- Joni Tormula +14.322
- Samuel Bean +15.017
- Filip Presjnader +18.007