Blakeley storms into F1 Esports Series Pro Championship lead after thrillers in Portimao and Zandvoort
Lucas Blakeley wrestled back the lead of the drivers’ championship of this thrilling 2021 F1 Esports Series Pro Championship presented by Aramco season, following Rounds 7 and 8 of the series in Portimao and Zandvoort.
The Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Esports ace claimed a truly dominant lights-to-flag win as the series made its inaugural visit to Autodromo do Algarve in Portugal. He then followed it up with another podium at the second race of the evening around Zandvoort – but it was Mercedes man Dani Moreno who perfected the twists of the Dutch track to take his very first win in the series.
Here’s what went down in each race.
A Portimao showstopper
The gaps in F1 Esports are miniscule. In fact, qualifying for Round 7 in Portugal saw one of the smallest margins ever witnessed in the series, with the top seven split by half a tenth (0.050s)! However it was Blakeley who had the quickest time, and he put it to good use in the race.
In truth, no one came close to matching his pace in Portimao. After a surging start, he flew off into the distance, building up a lead of over four seconds at one point. That might sound fairly normal in Formula 1, but in F1 Esports, as commentator Alex Jacques aptly put it, “in real terms, that’s an hour!”
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This was a race of two strategies. Blakeley started on the softs, and ended on the mediums. Frede Rasmussen, though, chose the alternate, and pitted for soft tyres on Lap 13, coming out right between the Mercedes duo of Moreno and Jarno Opmeer.
Pitting earlier, Rasmussen’s pace was electrifying. After emerging seventh, he sliced past Moreno, Joni Tormala, David Tonizza and Fabrizio Donoso in five laps to take second. Blakeley, though, was too far ahead to catch.
Blakeley led home Rasmussen, Donoso and Moreno, who got past both Tormala and Tonizza on the final lap, the unfortunate duo finishing P5 and P6 respectively. Reigning champion Opmeer made up four places from his P11 qualifying performance, taking seventh. Michael Romanidis, Marcel Kiefer and Bari Boroumand completed the points.
Duelling in the Dutch dunes
Hopes of home heroics were dashed in qualifying for Zandvoort, as Dutchman Opmeer could only manage P7. However, a rejuvenated Boroumand claimed his second pole of the season, and led away from his P1 grid slot.
Despite Zandvoort’s narrow and precise nature, Boroumand and challenger Rasmussen ran the entire first sector side-by-side, before Rasmussen eventually emerged ahead.
It wasn’t long before pit stops shuffled the deck, with Moreno the first of a five-man group to stop just five laps into the race. Rasmussen followed suit the following lap, and was able to emerge just ahead of Moreno, who demonstrated the awesome power of the undercut.
Blakeley, meanwhile, had started on the medium tyres, in contrast to the other leaders, and came out in a net fifth position, running the much less durable soft tyre. After a pit stop for Patrik Sipos and sneaking past Boroumand, he moved up into third place on Lap 11.
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Rasmussen’s tenure in the lead came to an end on Lap 19, when Moreno used the final corner banking and a DRS boost to slingshot his way into the lead, and there he stayed until the chequered flag on Lap 25.
Moreno, Rasmussen, Blakeley and Boroumand headed the points-scorers, with the most recent two champions – Tonizza and Opmeer – next up. Tormala added to his earlier points with P7, ahead of Sipos, who opened his account. Brendon Leigh and Kiefer rounded out the top 10.
Blakeley now leads the drivers’ championship with 127 points, leading Opmeer on 115, and Rasmussen just a single point back on 114. Mercedes break away from Red Bull in the teams’ championship, on 191 points to 179.
We’re not done yet, as there’s still the third and final race of this event to run. The Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas is our canvas, and we’ll be painting a clearer picture of the championship with what’s set to be another frantic race.
Can Lucas Blakelely hold on, or will Jarno Opmeer and Frede Rasmussen be able to close the gap? Tune in to qualifying from 1530 UTC, and the race from 1930 UTC to find out!