Alfa Romeo’s Jarno Opmeer has one hand on the F1 Esports championship, but a rare winless round has seen the competition narrow a little.
This week’s three races took the drivers to classic circuits from the F1 calendar: Silverstone, Spa, and Monza. Red Bull drew first blood, courtesy of Frederik Rasmussen who snatched pole position at Silverstone by 0.04 seconds from the Renault of Nicolas Longuet, with Red Bull team-mate Marcel Kiefer just 0.01 seconds further back.
For the first part of the race this lead trio used the soft tyres to build a useful gap to the chasing Ferraris of reigning champion David Tonizza and Enzo Bonito, but the order was soon shaken up during the pit stops. Longuet and Kiefer came into the pits together, but were split by McLaren’s Dani Moreno – who’d stopped two laps previously – as they left. Longuet made the stop work and got past Rasmussen when he pitted a lap later.
That set up a thrilling final two laps. As the chequered flag closed in, Rasmussen and Longuet were running wheel-to-wheel, dragging Moreno and Kiefer along with them. Rasmussen attacked through Stowe but found himself on the outside at Vale. Moreno was able to sneak up into second and though Rasmussen and Kiefer crossed the line third and fourth, post-race penalties dropped them both behind Alfa Romeo’s Dani Bereznay, the Haas of Simon Weigang, and Tonizza.
Rasmussen repeated his pole position feat at Spa, with Kiefer again in third, this time split by Bereznay in the Alfa. Despite the early attentions of Tonizza, the Red Bulls and Bereznay made their break at the front and, though it needed a late lunge at the Bus Stop, finished in the order they’d started.
Further back, Opmeer was continuing a fightback from a poor qualifying session at Silverstone. The championship leader had made it up to sixth by the end of the race, behind double-champion Brendon Leigh in his best result of the year, and Longuet in fourth.
When the action moved to Monza, qualifying was an Italian marque 1-2-3. Tonizza took pole from Opmeer’s Alfa Romeo, with the second Ferrari of Bonito in third. For the first time this season, Tonizza was able to take the win with Opmeer in second. Leigh, running a different tyre strategy, was able to nab third – to make it three championship titles on one podium.
With three races remaining on the calendar, Opmeer has a 19 point lead over Rasmussen, with Kiefer a further 13 points behind. Red Bull leads the constructor’s title by 32 points.
Half of the Gran Turismo Sport FIA Online Championship finals berths were filled this weekend, with the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) regional finals. Over the course of three races, Spain’s Coque Lopez – part of the Williams Esports team – came out victorious, courtesy of an unusual tyre strategy at Spa-Francorchamps.
Williams team-mate Valerio Gallo had made the early running, winning the first two races at a canter ahead of Baptiste Beauvois. However the final race saw double points on offer, and Lopez and Hungary’s Patrik Blazsan – also a Williams Esports driver – took full advantage with their 1-2 finish.
Joining the Williams trio and Beauvois are Giorgio Mangano – yet another Williams driver – Adam Tapai, Rick Kevelham, and, on his FIA Online Championship debut, Jose Serrano. Japan’s Takuma Miyazono has also already qualified through his World Tour win back in February.
The Americas and the Asia-Oceania finals will run over the next two weekends, to find the remaining seven drivers to qualify for the world final later in December.
Shane van Gisbergen made his virtual V8 Supercars Esports debut during the week too, and nearly came away with a win. Though van Gisbergen took part in the pro driver virtual event earlier in the year – and won the title – racing against esports drivers is a stiffer challenge, at least in principle.
Running at the Michigan International Speedway, van Gisbergen was just 0.047 seconds behind team-mate Jarrad Filsell, with Jobe Stewart just four thousandths further back. Thereafter though it went to the form book with Josh Rogers claiming the win in the second race at Michigan and then in the evening’s final race at Monza – with Filsell second in both races.
Six races remain, and Rogers holds a 99 point lead over his team-mate Dayne Warren in the race to retain his 2019 title. Madison Down is just two points further behind.
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