Just like the real-life Formula 1 season, the F1 esports series is heading towards its climax in 2021. With three rounds remaining, it's looking as though the title battle is a three horse race. Just eight points separate Jarno Opmeer, Lucas Blakeley and Frederik Rasmussen at the top of the driver's championship.
Round ten of twelve took place around Imola, a new circuit to the F1 esports pros. The Italian track's harsh kerbs and narrow track surface can catch even the most experienced racers out, but how did the professionals get on this evening?
Idowu going against the script
Qualifying for Imola threw up some big surprises, not least Frede Rasmussen's lack of performance. The Red Bull had a session to forget, as he was out in Q2 and down in P15. Pole position went to McLaren's Josh Idowu, the Brit claiming his first P1 start in his F1 esports career.
David Tonizza completed the front row with Dani Moreno an impressive P3. The highest of the championship trio was Lucas Blakeley who lines up P4. The Brit was just ahead of defending champion Jarno Opmeer, the Mercedes man earning a top five berth in P5.
22 laps around the iconic Imola circuit began with Idowu getting a perfect start ahead of Tonizza. Despite the narrowness of the circuit, the esports pros got around the first few corners without incident. Brendon Leigh was the first victim of track limits, the FDA racer picking up a penalty within the first two laps.
Passing in Imola isn't easy, but Blakeley made it look natural as he passed Moreno into the Tamburello for P3 on Lap 4. The virtual home fans would soon go into raptures as well, as Tonizza powered past Idowu into the lead on Lap 6.
Idowu kept with Tonizza and took his lead back on Lap 9. The beneficiary of the pit-stops was Leigh, who jumped Blakeley into a net P3. Leigh would go one better on Lap 12, as he passed his teammate Tonizza into net P2.
After Moreno pit, Leigh took the lead with a forceful move against Idowu. Blakeley's failure to pass Tonizza cost him on Lap 15, as Opmeer went around the outside of Tosa to overtake his rival. The close proximity of cars then produced an accident, as Marcel Kiefer spun off and out of contention.
Blakeley began to drop places, damage to his front wing against the Ferrari of Tonizza shaved pace off his Aston. Clay and Boroumand crashed, which dropped them out of contention. Tonizza then overtook Leigh, which opened the door for Opmeer, but the Dutchman was forced onto the grass by Leigh.
Leigh's tyres would then fade and less than a second separated the top four drivers going into the final lap. Tonizza got the DRS and thrust himself in P1 into the Tamburello. Idowu was forced wide and was spun into the barriers, dropping out of the points. An incredibly cruel ending for a superb race from the Welshman.
Tonizza would win, with Opmeer in P2 and Rasmussen an incredible P3 from fifteenth on the grid. Blakeley would salvage a point in tenth, but the Brit's championship hopes had been severely dented.
In Mexico, Rasmussen made up for his poor qualifying in Imola by taking pole position. Opmeer had a solid qualifying by claiming P3, Blakeley disappointing with P7.
Opmeer could've clinched the title in this round, but he had to rely on poor results for his championship rivals. Boroumand completed the front row, with Nicolas Longeut an impressive fourth.
The slipstream into Turn 1 on Lap 1 in Mexico is extremely powerful and so it proved again. Opmeer got the jump on Rasmussen and Boroumand and went down the inside into Turn 1. Rasmussen was forced wide and down into P3, not what the Dane needed.
The leading trio were in a league of their own and gaped the chasing pack with ease. Boroumand would change the order on Lap 5 though, as he strongly took the lead into Turn 1.
The drivers were biding their time, but something had to give. Blakeley made a forceful move on Idowu into sixth on Lap 8, the latter picking up a penalty for his defence. At the front, Opmeer re-passed Boroumand into the lead. The McLaren man would then be the first driver to pit at the end of Lap 11.
Opmeer pit the following lap, but Rasmussen stayed out, pushing his soft tyres to the absolute limit. Rasmussen may have regretted his extended stint though, as he dropped to P3 with Opmeer now leading. Blakeley made more progress, passing Tonizza on Lap 15 of 25, but the undercut allowed Leigh, Longeut and Moreno all to jump him.
Blakeley made up some ground though, passing Kiefer fantastically into the essess section. Boroumand took the lead on Lap 20, but a lap later, the leading trio would go three wide in Turn 1. Opmeer swept into the lead and Rasmussen forced himself into P2.
Opmeer backed off heading into the final lap and Rasmussen took the lead going through the final corner. Opmeer's tactical move paid off though, as he powered past Rasmussen to retake his lead into P1. Rasmussen's track extension saw him drop to P3 behind Boroumand. Blakeley ended up down in sixth and out of title contention.
Red Bull Racing
Red Bull Racing
Red Bull Racing
FDA Esports Team
Imola and Mexico City were the penultimate races of the season. The final round is in Interlagos will be air on Thursday, 16 December from 7:30pm UK time. You can catch all of the action live on Formula 1’s official Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube channels.
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