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Formula 1

Opmeer wins but F1 Esports title goes down to the wire

by Nathan Quinn
5 min read

Alfa Romeo driver Jarno Opmeer maintains the F1 Esports Pro Series championship lead with one race remaining despite being outscored by title rival and Red Bull driver Frederik Rasmussen over Wednesday’s two races.

Both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships are yet to be wrapped up, with the winner in each being decided in tomorrow’s race at Interlagos.

Entering Wednesday’s races at Suzuka and then Mexico, Opmeer led by 19 points over Rasmussen. The latter’s team-mate Marcel Kiefer was 32 points behind and Renault’s Nicolas Longuet a distant fourth, 65 points behind Opmeer.

Kiefer appeared to start his drivers’ championship charge as well as possible as he set the fastest time in qualifying at Suzuka, but he received a three-place grid penalty for multiple infractions over the course of the Pro Series.

Therefore it was his Red Bull team-mate Rasmussen who started the first of two races from pole position with Longuet second and Racing Point’s Daniele Haddad third.

Kiefer was fourth on the starting grid at Suzuka, two spots ahead of Opmeer, while his Alfa Romeo team-mate Bereznay was down in 10th.

It was Longuet who got the better launch off the grid and he was able to hug the apex at the first corner to get ahead of Rasmussen and take first place.

F1 Esports Japan Rasmussen And Longuet

The leading pair both pitted from soft to medium compound tyres on the same lap.

It wasn’t until the penultimate lap that Rasmussen got back in front of Longuet, going around the outside of the first corner to score the full 25 points for race victory.

Opmeer carried out his trademark tyre strategy of starting on the medium tyres and going on a late race overtaking spree on fresh soft tyres at the end.

His late stop dropped him down to ninth place, but with fresh tyres he was able to overtake Joni Tormala, Bereznay and Manuel Biancolilla to move back up to his starting position of sixth.

David Tonizza briefly ran ahead of Kiefer and in fourth by undercutting the frontrunners, but his comparatively old tyres meant the Ferrari driver soon lost track position to Kiefer and later Opmeer.

F1 Esports Japan Opmeer And Kiefer Pic 2

On the final lap the Opmeer, with the aid to DRS, overtook Kiefer for fourth down the start finish straight and outscored one of his nearest championship rivals.

However a race win for Rasmussen meant Opmeer’s championship points lead was slashed from 19 to six.

Completing the podium spots, behind winner Rasmussen and runner-up Longuet, was Haddad who took the team’s first podium finish in this year’s Pro Series.

The second of today’s races was held in Mexico with Rasmussen securing pole position for the second consecutive race but he had to share the front row with Opmeer.

On the long run down to the first corner, Opmeer appeared to have the advantage as he was able to take the inside line on entry to the first complex of corners.

F1 Esports Mexico Race Start

However David Tonizza, who drove in between the middle of the title rivals down the main straight, compromised Opmeer’s run into the corner with both drivers touching, resulting in the Ferrari driver spinning and retiring from the race.

That left Rasmussen unchallenged in taking the outside line and his cleaner run through the opening corners allowed him to take first place.

The attempt to pull of a successful overcut strategy backfired for Opmeer as he re-joined the track behind both Red Bulls and two-time F1 Esports champion Brendon Leigh.

The early stops for the front runners meant they had to cut through traffic once they left the pits, and in the process Rasmussen reported that he sustained minor damage as he made his way through the backmarkers.

F1 Esports Japan Rasmussen

By comparison Opmeer’s fresher tyres meant he was able to pass both Leigh and Kiefer to get back into second and challenge Rasmussen for the race win.

A damaged Red Bull put up little resistance to Opmeer as the Alfa Romeo driver was able to get by down the start finish straight.

The final few laps of the race weren’t kind to Red Bull as Brendon Leigh also passed Rasmussen’s wounded car to take second place.

Meanwhile for Kiefer, not only did he lose a position to Leigh after the pit stops, but he was passed by the Alfa Romeo driver of Bereznay and McLaren’s Dani Moreno, the latter of which gained on soft tyres at the end.

A race win and fourth place for Alfa Romeo versus third and sixth from Red Bull means the constructors’ championship fight goes to the final round, with the Red Bull still holding a 39-point advantage.

Mexico also undid all the damage Japan had caused to Opmeer’s points lead, as he’s now 16 points ahead of Rasmussen with the pair the only drivers still in contention to win the drivers’ championship. A race win – like real-life F1 – is worth 25 points.

The victors in both championships will be crowned in tomorrow’s F1 Esports Pro Series race in Brazil.

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