Thomas Ronhaar Crowned 2022 F1 Esports Series Pro Exhibition Champion
Dutchman Thomas Ronhaar prevailed in the 2022 F1 Esports Series Pro Exhibition, presented by Aramco, and is in the pound seat for selection by one of the 10 official F1 Esports teams.
Held at Silverstone’s University Technical College on the outskirts of the track between Woodcote and Copse, the event brought together 26 of the world’s fastest young sim racing talents. From all over the UK, Europe, and even as far afield as Hong Kong, the drivers were put through their paces in a series of races and mini-tournaments.
The Women’s Wildcard, Semi-finals and Finals whittled down the pack to the 15 fastest drivers, with Ronhaar amassing the most points over the final three races to take his crown. All competitors are now eligible for selection by the teams, but you can bet that they’ll be sniffing out those who performed best for their rosters.
The first day of the event saw the Women’s Wildcard take place, with a three-race series contested across Bahrain, Austria and Brazil. Despite only having picked up the F1 2021 game a few weeks before the event, Mira Schmitt was the class of the field, winning all three races.
She triumphed over last year’s winner Rebecca Morrell, as well as newcomers Cythia Lok and Rachel Wood, progressing into Tuesday’s racing in the Semi-finals.
With Schmitt joining the remaining 25 drivers, day two of the event was ready for the off. Two groups of 13 drivers participated in three races; 25% races in Britain and Brazil, with a five-lap Sprint around Austria thrown into the mix.
In Group 1, Jake Benham cemented his authority, first triumphing over Luke Smith in a dong-dong duel around Silverstone, then again in a breathless scrap around Spielberg, leading Smith home once more. The final race in Brazil? More of the same, as Benham prevailed over Smith, with Duncan Hofland third. The same three drivers filled the top three spots in all three races, hinting that they’ll be major players in 2022.
Group 2 rolled around, and Polish ace Piotr Stachulec claimed the first win after a topsy-turvy first race around Silverstone. Wilson Hughes had finished first on the road, but a penalty for contact with Kristof Szelle on the final lap dropped him down to P10. A fascinating slipstream fight around Spielberg was up next, with Stachulec taking the win on the road this time, heading Jed Norgrove and Szelle across the line. Ronhaar saved his best for last, prevailing around the always-entertaining Interlagos, beating Szelle by just over three tenths; Joost. Nordijk completing the rostrum.
The third and final day heralded the final of the competition itself, with the fastest seven drivers from each cohort joined by the highest-scoring of the two drivers in eighth place – Jed Norgrove.
That meant a final 15 group of: Matthew Alder, Samuel Bean, Jake Benham, Duncan Hofland, Wilson Hughes, Sam McLean, Joost Nordijk, Jed Norgrove, Jordin Poland, Tomasz Poradzisz, Thomas Ronhaar, Luke Smith, Piotr Stachulec, Mirko Suriano, and Kristof Szelle.
The first race was a familiar 25 percenter around Bahrain, and quickly a trend emerged, as Benham and Ronhaar headed the field in the twin Mercedes. They remained in that order until the pit stops, where Ronhaar was able to take the lead. But echoes of Bahrain 2014 were heard when the duo went head-to-head at Turn 1, Benham shooting through. They were separated by just 0.166s at the chequered flag, with Ronhaar second, ahead of Stachulec in third.
Now for something completely different, with a 25% race in the rain around Spa-Francorchamps. Ronhaar led from Benham, but an unbelievable duel between the two of them for pretty much the entire final two laps threatened to shake up the status quo. Ronhaar held on for the win ahead of Benham, with Smith coming home to take the final spot on the podium – and fastest lap.
The final race brought the gang to Circuit Of The Americas, where Ronhaar, Smith and Benham continued their momentum early on. Unfortunately, a technical issue denied Benham the opportunity to challenge, and he dropped out of contention. Not yet having tasted victory, Smith give it his all on the final lap, and brilliantly passed Ronhaar to take victory with just metres remaining in the Pro Exhibition.
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With that, Ronhaar was crowned champion. His tally of 61 points stood high and mighty over Smith’s 49, with Benham picking up third with 43.
It’s now up to the 10 official F1 Esports teams to decide which of our Pro Exhibitionists they’d like to join their team for 2022. Keep an eye on social media and make sure you check the hashtag #F1Esports to see who’s going where. We’ll see you in September for the first round of the 2022 Pro Championship, where the hunt for our next superstar continues.