Jarno Opmeer picked up where he had left off as the reigning Formula 1 Esports Series champion rode on a 14 point lead of the 2021 competition after the first three rounds of the season. Back-to-back victories did not overshadow the opening winner in Aston Martin’s Lucas Blakeley, however. The Scotsman a welcome surprise at the front of the pack.
Over the course of the week, we took a look into the mindsets of AlphaTauri’s Sebastian Job and McLaren Shadow’s Josh Idowu. Clearly, the rookies were excited to see what impact they could make; though experience is seemingly making the difference in the final year of the current technical regulations.
Great Britain Qualifying
For the second time in four attempts, Opmeer was not able to crack Q3 in another oddball performance given his inherent race pace. More worrying for the Dutchman would be Blakeley’s starting position with the Aston Martin third.
Frederik Rasmussen would bounce back from an underwhelming first few rounds to take his first pole position of the season with Alpine’s Nicolas Longuet joining him on the front row. Bari Broumand would continue his solid start to McLaren life with fourth whilst Mercedes-AMG’s hopes of a top-five finish were boosted by Daniel Moreno who would head the third row.
Opmeer would be back on form later in the day for qualifying at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. In an extraordinarily tight session, the Dutchman won out, just nine thousandths ahead of Red Bull’s Marcel Kiefer. Better news for the Silver Arrows was to come as Moreno secured yet another fifth-placed start.
Fabrizio Donoso raised eyebrows as the leading Alpine with third locked down ahead of a, once again, impressive Blakeley who wasn’t letting first place out of his sights.
Great Britain Race
Broumand would find himself the early winner off the start as a quick launch propelled him into third past Blakeley. He was also one of the quickest into the pits, joining the Alpines, Alfa Romeos and Williams’ Alvaro Carreton in switching tyres within the first four laps of the race.
Pain would come the Iranian’s way, however, through the quick response of Moreno and Kiefer to this aggressive strategy. Though Broumand remained ahead of the Red Bull, the Mercedes inadvertently fell into an overcut and the McLaren was stuck under the Spaniard’s rear wing.
As the rest of the front runners made their stops on the sixth lap, Opmeer chose to prolong his first stint; still unable to break into the top ten on the medium compound tyres. As he took the race lead, his teammate performed an outstanding move around the outside of Longuet at Stowe. This left the net order as Rasmussen, Moreno, Longuet, Blakeley and Broumand. So close was everyone on race pace that you could not afford to take your eyes off the screen.
Come the 10th lap, after immense pressure, Longuet finally relinquished net third to Blakeley who surely knew he’d have a fantastic chance here to claw back points on Opmeer. Just tenths up the road, Moreno was getting on with business as well – Rasmussen couldn’t hold him back into Stowe. Opmeer would finally pit on Lap 12, returning to the field in 16th, albeit with the freshest set of supersoft tyres to burn up over the remaining five laps.
Rasmussen had shown incredible patience by conserving his battery before unleashing it down the Hangar Straight on the final lap, leaving Moreno in the dust. The Red Bull driver would win his first race of the season ahead of the Mercedes with Blakeley rounding out the podium. Opmeer’s gamble somewhat paid off with ninth place and more points on the board.
- Frederik Rasmussen – Red Bull Racing Esports – 26:57.560
- Daniel Moreno – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports – +0.506
- Luca Blakeley – Aston Martin Cognizant Esports – +0.528
- Nicolas Longuet – Alpine Esports Team – +1.357
- Bari Broumand – McLaren Shadow – +1.759
- Brendon Leigh – FDA Esports – +1.959
- Marcel Kiefer – Red Bull Racing Esports – +2.038
- Joni Törmälä – Scuderia AlphaTauri Esports – +2.326
- Jarno Opmeer – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports – +4.049
- David Tonizza – FDA Esports – +4.804
As at Silverstone, Broumand got off to a flyer but on this occasion in part to his tyre compound advantage over the rest of the top ten. The pick of the overtakes was a phenomenal pass around the outside of Blakeley into Ascari, although one could argue that the Scot was keeping his championship hopes in mind.
The Iranian was at it again the following lap. With an identical move at Ascari with Donoso the victim this time around, McLaren now sat in the podium places. Then came the magnum opus on the fourth lap as Broumand used a double slipstream ahead to pass Kiefer as the Red Bull flew by pole-sitter Opmeer.
Early stops proved to be a talking point once more with Rasmussen and Tonizza pitting from the midfield first to try and undercut their rivals. For the Dane this worked a treat, jumping everyone including previously second-placed teammate Kiefer. Broumand was inevitably counted in this following Opmeer’s retaking of the race lead on the eighth lap. After a second switch of the lead, the Iranian’s pitstop confirmed the job ahead of him – 11th his position with nine laps remaining.
In the meantime, the Red Bulls had also exchanged places meaning (once Opmeer pitted on Lap 11) Kiefer held first from Rasmussen and a time penalty-hit Donoso. The formation-flying defence from the leading pair frustrated all behind to no end, all while Opmeer began to climb his way back up the order. Blakeley would blink first, opening the door to both Longuet and the charging Silver Arrow.
The final few laps were fanatical and frantic with every inch going a mile. By the final lap, Kiefer was clear with Opmeer and Rasmussen side-by-side in his rearview mirrors. Then came Moreno, steaming up the inside as Broumand had performed earlier. Tragedy struck as Tonizza clipped Rasmussen, spinning the helpless Dane to ninth.
A race of sharp breath intakes ended with Kiefer crossing the line ahead of Moreno, although the feistiness of the round did not escape the gaze of the stewards. The Spaniard was thrown back to seventh in the final race classification with Opmeer inheriting his second and Blakeley also stepping onto the podium.
- Marcel Kiefer – Red Bull Racing Esports – 26:17.396
- Jarno Opmeer – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports – +0.642
- Lucas Blakeley – Aston Martin Cognizant Esports – +2.236
- Fabrizio Donoso – Alpine Esports Team – +2.313
- Sebastian Job – Scuderia AlphaTauri Esports – +2.387
- Bari Broumand – McLaren Shadow – +3.111
- Daniel Moreno – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports – +3.297
- Frederik Rasmussen – Red Bull Racing Esports – +4.395
- Daniele Haddad – Aston Martin Cognizant Esports – +4.799
- Alvaro Carreton – Williams Esports – +4.903