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Jarno Opmeer and Alfa Romeo Take F1 Esports lead | FOS Future Lab

18th October 2020
Andrew Evans

A stunning start to the season from Dutch driver Jarno Opmeer has seen him rocket to the top of the F1 Esports Series standings, and his Alfa Romeo team along with him.

The official F1 Esports Series is one of the biggest and most valuable events in esports. All ten of the official F1 teams field squads, and the 12-round series has a total prize fund of $750,000 (£580,000).

There have been changes for 2020 of course, some with coronavirus in mind. While in previous seasons the drivers have all assembled in London for each round, this year they’re racing from home – or their teams’ bases – and that’s meant delivering control equipment and anti-cheat software to the drivers.

Renault’s Nicolas Longuet made the early running in this week’s first round. The Frenchman managed to score pole position in both of the first two rounds, at Bahrain and the new Hanoi circuit, originally scheduled for the real world this year, but making its debut virtually first.

However, come the races – only his second appearance in the series – Longuet couldn’t capitalise on the early advantage. Daniel Bereznay in the Alfa Romeo quickly got past Longuet, before being passed himself by Joni Tormala’s AlphaTauri. Marcel Kiefer joined in the party in his Red Bull, but then the strategies of the new, 35 per cent-length races came into play.

With all the pit stops done, Bereznay led from Tormala, but Opmeer’s soft tyres gave him a pace advantage. As the laps ticked away, the Dutchman first cleared the Finn to make an Alfa Romeo 1-2, before sailing past his team-mate on the penultimate lap. Kiefer joined the Alfa duo on the podium.

Defending champion David Tonizza had a chaotic race in Bahrain, but took the win in the second after a race-long battle with Longuet and Opmeer. While we haven’t seen the new Hanoi circuit in the real world, it certainly delivered in the esports event, with the lead changing hands almost on a corner-by-corner basis. In the end it took a last lap late-breaking move from Tonizza to slide his Ferrari ahead of Longuet and win by less than 0.4s, with Opmeer just as close behind in third.

Alfa Romeo managed a front-row lockout in qualifying for race three in China, with Opmeer ahead of Bereznay. However Opmeer opted to start on the medium tyres and soon slipped back behind his team-mate, Tonizza, Kiefer, and the second Red Bull and Ferrari drivers Frederik Rasmussen and Enzo Bonito. Ferrari then suffered a connection catastrophe, eliminating Tonizza and Bonito – though their AI-controlled ghosts continued touring.

With all the pit stops over, Opmeer was still in fifth, but on much softer tyres he was able to scythe through the field once again, taking the lead from Kiefer on the penultimate lap. Alfa team-mate Bereznay rounded out the podium.

These results put Opmeer on top of the early championship, 24 points ahead of Kiefer. Alfa Romeo leads the constructor championship by 29 points from Red Bull. The second batch of three races takes place on 4th-5th November, and takes in Circuit Zandvoort, Red Bull Ring, and Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

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