The second season of the V10 R-League has been even more entertaining than the first so far!
As we enter the semi-finals stage, it's notable that both Red Bull and Williams aren't in contention anymore. These outfits were two of the favourites to win the series, but neither will feature in the final four.
This isn't a case of them not performing, but rather down to the competitiveness of the V10 R-League.
Red Bull fall at the first hurdle
Instead of being a complete round-robin format where every team races against each other once, a group stage was introduced into the V10 R-League for Season 2. The top three teams of each of the two groups would qualify for the play-offs.
Red Bull were drawn into Group A alongside Season 1 champions Team Redline,Aston Martin,YAS Heat and the new R8G outfit. You would've expected the team that finish third overall in Season 1 to at least make the play-offs. However, you'd be wrong in making that assumption.
Red Bull sat out Round 1, as that was their rest week. It was a baptism of fire when they got going though, as Team Redline clean swept them in a 4-0 victory in Round 2. The Milton Keynes-based outfit appeared to be back on form in Round 3, as they bested Aston Martin 3-1.
Round 4 saw Red Bull tie with YAS Heat 2-2, but RBR could still qualify for the play-offs. With YAS Heat having their rest week in Round 5, Red Bull knew they needed 3 points from their clash with R8G Esports to make the quarterfinals.
Despite being on the receiving end of a clean sweep in Round 1, R8G had gotten used to the R-League by Round 5. A point from both Redline and YAS Heat were causes for optimism. R8G went one step further v Red Bull by tying 2-2. This saw Red Bull out of the competition, as seven points put them behind Heat in fourth by virtue of less driver points.
How did this happen?
As is so often the case in Esports racing, fine margins made a big difference. Just one more point in one of the many close relay and team races would've seen Red Bull through. Even slightly better results in the team races would've done the job.
At the end of the day though, Red Bull will know they didn't perform as they expected in Season 2. Expect them to come back swinging in Season 3.
Williams fail to make semi-finals
Last season's runners-up went one better than Red Bull in Season 2, but Williams will still be disappointed to be going home early.
Williams got off to the perfect start in Round 1 by producing a clean sweep against JAESA Suzuki. However, 3-1 losses against BMW and McLaren Shadow dented their hopes of topping Group B. A 3-1 victory over Fordzilla in Round 5 confirmed third place in the group.
Williams would have to overcome Aston Martin if they were to make the semi-finals. Aston have been one of the most improved teams in Season 2. After a lacklustre fifth place in Season 1, they've shown their quality with some excellent performances.
Aston Martin hit the ground running in Spa, by taking victory in both the team and relay races. Williams would need to be perfect at Silverstone to mount a comeback. A collision in the relay race saw Williams come off worse and crash out with one race still to go.
Why did Williams crash out?
You could be forgiven for thinking that Aston Martin's unchanged driver line-up from Season 1 to 2 is the reason for their success. They weren't the only ones though, as Williams also had the same three drivers from Season 1 competing this time around.
Williams was deservedly placed third in Group B, as they were comfortably second-best against both BMW and McLaren in their respective contests. Perhaps change in on the cards for Williams for Season 3, but rash decisions don't always pay off in racing.
Like Red Bull, fine margins cost them in the end. Had Williams placed second in the group stage, they could've advanced against YAS Heat rather than taking on the in-form Aston Martin team.
However, when it came to the play-offs, not having a star performer like Lucas Blakeley cost Williams dearly. Kuba Brzezeniski, Nikodem Wisniewski and Martin Stefanko just didn't perform on the day and the play-offs don't take any prisoners.
Ultimately, anybody can beat anybody in the V10 R-League. What a team achieved in the past is no guarantee of future success and both Red Bull and Williams have proved that in Season 2. You cannot let up for even a second, as the difference between taking victory and losing is so small.
With the semi-finals starting tonight, there could be even more surprises in store for us going forward!