F1 Esports returned to our screens after a month break with a sensational pair of races.
The debuting Portimao and returning Zandvoort provided a strong pair of races with action up and down the field.
Disappointing qualifying sessions put Jarno Opmeer in the middle of the pack with plenty of work to do. Would he be able to create a masterful drive once again or could his title rivals close the gap?
Championship hopeful Lucas Blakeley started on pole and got off the line well, keeping the lead from former Champion David Tonizza into turn 1.
Starting down the field once again, Jarno Opmeer got a rocket of a start and made some aggressive moves in the first lap, getting up to P8 by the time he hit the pit straight for the first time.
Blakeley built an incredible 1.3-second gap by the time DRS was activated as he tried to make a complete breakaway from the field. Once DRS was active Mercedes driver Dani Moreno was able to take P2 from David Tonizza and he would take aim at the rear wing of Blakeley but be unable to do anything about the Aston Martin man's relentless pace.
With Blakeley breaking away in front and his momentum stopped in the DRS train, Opmeer boxed at the end of lap 6 for medium tyres, trying an aggressive undercut to jump some places.
Tonizza and then Fabrizio Donoso would jump into the pits in response, but hold onto track position over Opmeer.
Blakeley pitted at the end of lap 9 and managed to still be 1.8 seconds ahead of the rest even with the undercut.
That left Red Bull's Frede Rasmussen leading the race on the alternate strategy, with his teammate Marcel Kiefer in P2. Both would be fast on the softs in the second half of the race, but would need to do a lot of overtaking.
Rasmussen's pitstop would spit him out neck-and-neck with Jarno Opmeer, but Frede's superior grip saw him sweep past on the outside of turn 4 for P6.
He would then go on a charge through Moreno, Tormala, Donoso, and Tonizza and take P2 by the start of lap 17. Blakeley had a 4 second cushion back to Frede, but would it be enough?
The P3 DRS train ran all the way back to P17, leaving the likes of Brendon Leigh and Marcel Kiefer to waste their fresher soft rubber.
Out front, Blakeley was untouchable even as Rasmussen would be on for the fastest lap point as well thanks to his alternate strategy.
On the final lap Dani Moreno would make a sensational switchback on Tormala for P5 in the first sector and then get far too muscular with David Tonizza around the final corner, bumping the Italian wide and sending him tumbling down the order.
Moreno would cross the line P4 with Opmeer in P6, but would the stewards have something to say about the Mercedes' driver and his forceful move?
Throwing away the win?
It was a wild start at Zandvoort with Bari Boroumand and Frede Rasmussen on the front row, followed by Lucas Blakeley and Patrik Sipos.
After some muscular racing in the first few corners it was Rasmussen up to the front of the field, followed by Bari and Sipos. Blakeley settled into P4 with the Mercedes pair right behind him as the DRS train formed.
Dani Moreno and Joni Tormala were the first of the front runners to bolt into the pits, putting on the medium tyres at the end of lap 4.
Rasmussen would respond to the undercut and pit at the end of lap 5, while Bari and Sipos continued. Blakeley was the leader of the medium compound runners, but with so few laps run on the softs would it be an impactful move?
Blakeley surprised everyone when he dived into the pits at the end of lap 8, going on a completely different strategy to everyone with a long run on the soft tyres.
The Aston Martin ace would quickly dispatch of Sipos and then Bari, putting him in a net P3, with just Moreno and Rasmussen ahead of him.
Moreno was gunning for his first F1 Esports win, but also trying to bank points for Mercedes in the Teams Championship.
The fight for the race lead settled for a few laps as drivers recharged batteries, but further back Brendon Leigh was practically pushing Jarno Opmeer around the track on his fresher softs but just couldn't find a way through.
On lap 19 Dani Moreno finally made a move for the lead on Rasmussen, or was it Rasmussen letting Moreno through to grab DRS and recharge his battery? Either way Blakeley nearly pounced for P2.
Down the field David Tonizza was able to start making in-roads, pushing his way to P5 as he got past Opmeer and then Sipos. He was soon on the back of Bari Boroumand and thinking about a potential podium.
On the final lap Rasmussen launched his attack on Moreno but he couldn't get through into turn 1, with Moreno boldly defending for his maiden win. The Mercedes man held off one last attack from Rasmussen and would cross the line first.
Rasmussen was P2 for the second time in the day but surely felt like he had thrown away a win. Blakeley finished P3, bagging another podium spot and rounding out a sensational day.
Race 9 sees F1 Esports return to the Circuit of the Americas tomorrow with a new championship leader.
Blakeley carries a 12-point advantage over Jarno Opmeer into the race, with Mercedes also 12 points up on Red Bull in the Teams Championship.
Qualifying will be at 3:30pm GMT with the race at 7:30pm GMT. You can watch all the action of Formula 1's official Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch channels!
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