Bottas beaten by a sim racer at Race of Champions | FOS Future Lab

30th January 2023
Andrew Evans

A team of sim racers has sprung a surprise in the 2023 Race of Champions by beating a squad of F1 drivers in the Race of Champions Nations Cup – winning a knockout match for the first time since sim racers were invited to the competition in 2018.


Having won the online eRace of Champions (eROC) tournament, four gamers headed to Pite Havsbad in Sweden to compete for the two spots on “Team eROC” in the real thing. There they’d compete over the real course, receiving tuition from Terry Grant, and a virtual version with a judging panel of ROC competitors Felix Rosenqvist and Oliver Solberg as well as Grant himself. In a repeat of the 2022 event, it was Lucas Blakeley and Jarno Opmeer who advanced to the final – with Blakeley also taking the eROC title – ahead of Michael Romanidis and Martin Palm.

That saw them go into the pot for Round 1 of ROC, with Team eROC drawn against Team Finland. With a track carved out of Baltic Sea ice and Team Finland comprising double F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen and current F1 racer Valtteri Bottas, it looked like a one-sided match.

However, Blakeley, who memorably defeated Sebastian Vettel in the 2022 event, immediately threw that idea out of the window and demolished Bottas – winning around the twice-round figure-eight course by four seconds.

Opmeer was next, but couldn’t take a point against either Hakkinen or Bottas – not helped by a jump start – despite two relatively close finishes. That made the score 2-1 to Team Finland, but then Blakeley struck again to defeat Hakkinen by over seven seconds.

With the teams tied 2-2, Team eROC advanced on aggregate times and into a rematch with Team Germany, and Sebastian Vettel. The result wasn’t quite the same as 2022 though, with Vettel taking his revenge over Blakeley as part of a 3-0 whitewash with team-mate Mick Schumacher.

It’s the fourth successive event in which an Esports racer has beaten a pro, with Rudy van Buren winning against Timo Bernhard and Lando Norris in 2018, Enzo Bonito beating Lucas di Grassi and Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2019 along with team-mate James Baldwin taking a win from Ruben Garcia Jr.

2021 champion Sebastian Job has started the 2023 Porsche Esports Carrera Cup GB in imperious fashion, adding two more wins to his tally at Brands Hatch.

Job came through the opening weekend at Silverstone with an almost perfect record, taking pole position in qualifying and winning both races; only a Jamie Moone fastest lap in the second race kept Job from the grand slam.

It was an ominous sign when Job also took pole position for race one at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit, with a lap 0.14 seconds better than his nearest championship rival Will Chadwick. However the championship leader didn’t have it all his own way. After quickly building a one-second gap, an error at Paddock Hill saw Chadwick close back up again; the two ran almost line-astern for the majority of the race. As the clock ticked down though, Job stretched his legs again to take the win by just under two seconds from Chadwick, with Jack Sedgwick in third.

The top-six reversed-grid saw Oli Peacock leading the pack away for race two, but it was Am-category driver Leo Gariboli who hit the front early on. 

Job was making moves, and was up to third by the end of lap one. Chadwick initially followed him, but was tagged by Jamie Moone through Paddock Hill; somehow this wasn’t a massive accident, but Chadwick slipped down to seventh as a result.

Inevitably, Job got past Peacock into Paddock Hill only a couple of laps later and then kept pace with Gariboli until the chance opened up with just over ten minutes gone.

From there Job just drove away to win by more than eight seconds from Gariboli who held off Peacock right to the line. Chadwick recovered to fourth, but with Job running a perfect weekend to take four wins from four it’s already looking like a challenge for anyone to catch him.

Race 1

1 - Sebastian Job (UK) - Red Bull Esports - 34 laps

2 - Will Chadwick (UK) - Team Fordzilla - +1.743s

3 - Jack Sedgwick (UK) - ineX Racing - +4.863s

Race 2

1 - Sebastian Job (UK) - Red Bull Esports - 34 laps

2 - Leo Gariboli (UK) - Team PGZ - +8.359s

3 - Oli Peacock (UK) - ATRS Esports - +8.636s

The Esports WTCR championship has returned after a while off the calendar, with two races at the combined Nürburgring Nordschleife/Sprint circuit layout.

It was probably no surprise that the 2022 shootout series winner Bence Banki took pole position, although Juan Manuel Gomez was only 0.02 seconds behind on a lap of over eight and a half minutes.

But it was Jack Keithley who took the win in race one, emerging from an early five-car battle to take the lead midway through the final lap.

With the top-ten reversed-grid second race, Tim Jarschel started on pole, but again it was the driver starting third who took the win. Petr Pliska hit the front at Tiergarten on the opening lap and never looked back.

Keithley leads the standings at this early stage of the season, three points ahead of Pliska.

Race 1

1 - Jack Keithley (UK) - Williams Esports - 3 laps

2 - Bence Banki (Slovakia) - Dorr Esports - +0.534s

3 - Gergo Baldi (Hungary) - M1RA Esports - +0.791s

Race 2

1 - Petr Pliska (Italy) - Team Fordzilla - 3 laps

2 - Florian Hasse (Germany) - Dorr Esports - +2.754s

3 - Gianmarco Fiduci (Italy) - Team Fordzilla - +3.067s

Welcome to FOS Future Lab where we report on the latest visions of future technology. We'll be boldly covering flying cars, hoverboards, jetpacks and spaceships with plenty of down to earth topics in between.

  • Esports

  • Race of Champions

  • Valterri Bottas

  • Porsche

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