F1 Esports 2020: “team first” says Kiefer ahead of title-decider event
With the Championship on the line, Red Bull’s Marcel Kiefer gives us his thoughts on the finale.
The F1 Esports finale is in less than a week, and both championships are still up for grabs.
2019 Teams’ Champions Red Bull made a driver change prior to the season starting, bringing in Marcel Kiefer from Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) to partner their star Frederik Rasmussen.
Many expected Kiefer to play a supporting role to Rasmussen’s charge toward a title, but the German has proven to have front-running pace himself.
Sitting third in the Drivers standings, Kiefer goes into the final three races 32 points off leader Jarno Opmeer. We sat down to talk to Marcel ahead of the title-deciding event next week.
“The team standing is our priority”
Going into the final event the Red Bull pair sit 2nd & 3rd in the Drivers’ Championship, with both still able to clinch a maiden title. However, the team is also 1st in the Teams’ Championship, only 32 points ahead of Alfa Romeo.
While the $750,000 prize pot is split by team standings, the Drivers’ Championship is what everyone is gunning for, at least you’d think so. Red Bull have a different mentality though.
When asked if he would have taken 3rd in the drivers and 1st in the teams before the season started, Marcel stated that “Yea I would take it. The team standing is our priority. Even though it would hurt settling for third.”
It’s clear speaking to Marcel that he wants that Drivers’ Championship, but that risk-taking to do so would be counter-productive.
“We still extract the most points all the time and prioritise not the single driver, but the team goal which is the team standings.”
When talking about challenging Jarno Opmeer at the top of the standings he again reiterated that the priority was bringing the points back and not losing out on the Teams’ Championship.
This is something proven all year by Red Bull’s amazing team-first strategy that has seen them deliver strong results.
Red Bull’s teamwork has been exemploary all season. Kiefer and Rasmussen have worked in perfect harmony to deliver 255 points and lead the standings.
From a masterful 1-2 in Austria to an oh-so-close 1-3 in Spa, Rasmussen & Kiefer have been the consummate professionals this season.
With both of them still chasing the Drivers’ Championship though, is there any risk of that relationship breaking down like we see so often in F1? It doesn’t look likely.
“When you are that close [in pace] all the time usually there is some kind of rivalry in a more toxic way, but between me and Frede it’s actually super-friendly and we are just pissed if we don’t do the lap but not because we don’t beat the other one.”
Marcel was full of praise for his teammate, calling him the fastest driver over one lap, but always knew that he could beat his more established teammate.
“I never had a doubt that I could beat any of these guys.”
Taking down Opmeer?
Alfa Romeo’s Jarno Opmeer has been leading the standings since the first race. His trio of race wins and seven podiums are the most among the field.
His qualifying pace hasn’t always been the fastest, but on race day he has been electric.
Kiefer sits 32 points off Opmeer and will need some help to beat him, but he has plenty of confidence in his own pace.
“I think we can definitely get him on pace. That’s not a question. for sure we can beat Jarno on-track without just waiting for him to crack.”
Opmeer showed a few signs of cracking in Event 3, before restoring some of his lead with a podium in Monza. The final event promises to be electric, especially with the tracks it will be contested on.
The upcoming tracks
The final event will be contested on the famous Suzuka circuit in Japan, the Mexican GP track, and Interlagos in Brazil. All three pose challenges to the drivers.
“With ERS you can still line up [overtakes] pretty well.” Said Kiefer of the notoriously narrow and twisty Suzuka. “Overtaking will be harder, but possible. Qualifying is still the key.”
In the build up a lot of the drivers have taken to social media to discuss the track limits in Mexico, and Marcel confirmed their status.
“Track limits will be horribile in Mexico for all drivers. It will be mainly a survival of not getting any penalties and still having somewhat good pace.”
He likened the track limits situation to Canada and Italy, and commented that qually laps were slow there because drivers were worried about getting cutting warnings. The same will be true in Mexico.
“I’m looking forward to Interlagos, it’s a cool track and I really enjoy it.” said Kiefer, who took victory there in a Pro Exhibition race earlier this year, albeit on F1 2019.
“I know I can win.”
“We push as much as we can”
When asked about any changes to training and routine ahead of next week Marcel was giving nothing away.
He seems to be treating it as any other race but wouldn’t go into specifics about his preparation, as we have come to expect from the F1 Esports drivers.
Having recently hit 1,000 hours on F1 2020 on Steam, his dedication cannot be questioned.
He did state that they are making sure to avoid burnout, something proven by the 6 hours he spent building a Lego Baby Yoda live on stream.
Chasing his first F1 Esports Drivers’ Championship, Marcel is still the happy, chatty person seen on streams and social media. Focused and determined yes, but he seems very comfortable under the pressure of an F1 Esports title chase.
How to watch
You can take in all the action of the F1 Esports finale live on 16 & 17 December.
A qualifying show will also air at 3:30pm GMT on both days on the F1 Twitch channel.