Opmeer retains F1 Esports championship lead | FOS Future Lab
The penultimate round of the F1 Esports series has seen the championship lead change hands twice, the top three heading to the final races of the season separated by just eight points.
Defending champion Jarno Opmeer went into the round with a 14-point lead over Lucas Blakeley, but it was Aston Martin’s Blakeley on the pace at Portimao to take pole position, while Opmeer could only place his Mercedes 11th.
That speed carried through to the race itself, with the British driver proving unmatched at the Portuguese circuit. A late-race fightback from Red Bull’s Frede Rasmussen, running an inverted medium-to-soft strategy, saw Blakeley’s winning margin cut to two seconds, while Alpine’s Fabrizio Donoso picked up his second podium of the season in third.
Opmeer managed to claw his way up to seventh at the finish to pick up six points, but that meant Blakeley took over as the championship leader on 112 points, the first time Opmeer hasn’t led the championship since the first race of the 2020 season.
McLaren’s Bari Boroumand took pole position for the second race at Zandvoort, ahead of Rasmussen and Blakeley, and though Opmeer had a better time in qualifying he had to settle for a seventh-place grid spot. Rasmussen was the quicker of the front-row drivers in the opening stages, beating Boroumand to the front of the pack, but the race hinged on some unusual tyre strategies.
It was Opmeer’s Mercedes team-mate Dani Moreno making the boldest call, to run just four laps on the starting soft tyre. Blakeley meanwhile went the opposite way, coming in very early on lap ten on the medium tyres to run the last 15 laps on softs. Moreno’s was the better strategy, getting him up into second once the rest of the field had stopped, taking the lead from Rasmussen with six laps to go to coast to his first ever F1 Esports win. Blakeley’s risk didn’t pay off, finishing where he started in third. However with Opmeer in sixth the Aston Martin driver extended his championship lead.
That left the Circuit of the Americas, and Boroumand nearly made it two successive pole positions but for a last gasp lap from Alpine’s Nicolas Longuet which beat his marker by 0.001 seconds. Opmeer meanwhile seemed to overcome his struggles to qualify in third, well ahead of Blakeley down in eighth. Boroumand started on the soft tyre and streamed into the lead, trying to build enough of an advantage to defend later in the race.
It soon became clear that the softs wouldn’t last long enough, and after switching to the mediums he found himself a sitting duck to both Opmeer and Longuet running the opposite strategy, with Rasmussen following them through. Then came one of the most curious moments in F1 Esports history. Having taken the lead from Opmeer with two laps remaining, Longuet let both Opmeer and Rasmussen past on the back straight on the final lap, in what looked like an attempt to deny his rivals his own slipstream while picking up theirs to fight back through the final complex.
It didn’t work though, as Opmeer came through to take his third win of the season, with Rasmussen taking a third successive second place and Longuet in third. Meanwhile, Blakeley could only place sixth, allowing Opmeer to retake the championship lead by five points; Rasmussen’s recent consistent form sees him only three points further back. Mercedes now leads the championship again, by just 23 points.
There’s one final round of three races – at Imola, Mexico, and Brazil – which will determine both titles, on 15th and 16th December.
Lamborghini’s The Real Race has now crowned its three champions – one from each of its participating regions – who’ll head to Sant’Agata for a VIP experience and the chance to become Lamborghini’s official sim racing driver for 2022.
Two of the regions’ champions had already been decided, with Andrew O-Hara of the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region opting not to race the finale – Terry Rayton took both wins – while Jordan Sherratt of the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region did and, once again, dominated both races.
The North and Latin America (NALA) region though was a straight fight between William Hendrickson and Fidel Moreira, with 22 points between them and 39 points for each of the two race wins at Misano. Incredibly, it came down to a single moment. Hendrickson picked up a drive-through penalty for track limits violations, allowing Moreira a free run to take the first race win and the championship lead, while his rival finished in fourth. With grid positions carrying through to the second race, Moreira ran a lights-to-flag race to take the title.
One event not quite ready to crown a champion is the GT World Challenge Asia Endurance series. The scheduled finale this week at Suzuka was postponed for a second time, with a new date to come.
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