The F1 Esports 2022 season is just around the corner.
Teams and drivers have been deep in preparation for months, as everyone attempts to knock Jarno Opmeer off the top step.
One of those hoping to be crowned champion is Lucas Blakeley, who has swapped the green of Aston Martin for the papaya of McLaren coming into the 2022 season.
New season, new format
F1 Esports has been evolving gradually over the last few years, but 2022 is the biggest step forward yet.
After grouping three races over two days in previous years, the 2022 F1 Esports Series Pro Championship will now give each race room to breathe by putting them on individual days.
Races have also increased in length, going from a special 35% distance up to 50%, the most common choice for amateur league racing among the community.
This means several things for the drivers, as Lucas explained to us.
"I'm positively encouraged. In years gone by the format has been incredibly intense." The young Scotsman said.
"After every event last year, the headache I would have from the amount of adrenaline and stress after that first day was biblical. It was so intense, it was too much."
Given the hours drivers pour into the Formula 1 game from its release up to the first week of competition, to then insist on two races (including qualifying) on two different tracks in one day was a huge burden on the drivers.
While the new format is only a slight relief, it is definitely an improvement and will allow for some space and reflection for both drivers and fans alike between each race.
Lucas Blakeley has had a wild 12 months. He won his first F1 Esports races last season before traveling to Sweden for Race of Champions and beating Sebastian Vettel on the snow & ice, then he competed in Scottish Formula Ford.
Like many sim drivers, Lucas turned to the virtual world of racing when the real one became too expensive. But the chance to get behind the wheel of a race car again was a great experience for Lucas.
"It's an eye-opener to what is transferable and what isn't. There are distinct differences and they are two very different worlds. [...] You can definitely take how you improve session by session in a race car. It helps you put certain things into perspective when you go into the sim."
Lucas isn't the first elite sim racer to jump behind the wheel of a real race car, and he won't be the last. But taking that learning curve and competitive experience into this season will be crucial for his title chances as Lucas transitions to a new team.
Joining McLaren Shadow
Lucas enters his fourth season of F1 Esports with a new team, McLaren Shadow. Having spent three years with the Racing Point/Aston Martin outfit and the last two seasons with the same teammates, he's moved into a totally fresh environment.
"It's a massive privilege to be part of McLaren. It's something I'm enjoying every day." says Lucas. "There's a lot of positives, I've really enjoyed working with the team. It's quickly gelled together."
Lucas was clearly the fastest driver at Aston Martin, and as such its focal point. With McLaren though, he has a teammate in Bari Boroumand that is capable of bagging pole positions and competing for race wins.
"I've really enjoyed working with Bari, he's a really nice guy. I can say honestly he's one of the fastest drivers I've ever seen." said Lucas.
"Being his teammate is a pleasure because you can push each other to new limits. I've thoroughly enjoyed working alongside him."
While Lucas isn't putting too much stock in pre-season results, he and Bari were ultra-competitive in PSGL's most recent season, and while Lucas took home the championship Bari finished second, earning the teams title for McLaren in the process.
With the prize money for F1 Esports being handed out based on the Teams Championship standings, having such a strong lineup is a positive for McLaren Shadow.
F1 Esports 2022
The new F1 Esports season is just around the corner.
The first race is on Wednesday 14 September and you can watch from anywhere on Formula 1's official YouTube and Twitch channels.
For more articles like this, take a look at our Esports page.