Ahead of next week’s finale, four drivers and two teams are still in contention for the F1 Esports Pro Series championship.
Photo credit: Joe Brady
The fourth and final event of the F1 Esports Pro Series 2020 on December 16 and 17 will crown a new drivers’ champion and reward the top team with the biggest share of the $750,000 prize pool – the biggest in the history of the series.
Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Racing’s Jarno Opmeer heads the drivers’ championship standings on 153 points, with Red Bull Racing Esports Team’s Frede Rasmussen (134) and Marcel Kiefer (121) still very much in contention. Renault Vitality’s Nicolas Longuet (88) still has a mathematical chance of taking the title, but he’ll need a near-perfect event to have any chance of claiming the crown.
Defending champion David Tonizza and Mercedes AMG Petronas Esports Team’s two-time F1 Esports champion Brendon Leigh are both out of championship contention, meaning a third member will be admitted into the F1 Esports winners’ circle.
Red Bull has a 32-point lead over Alfa Romeo at the top of the teams’ championship. Incredibly, they’re the only two teams left in contention for the teams’ title such has been their dominance over the rest of the field.
We preview the chances of each of the three main contenders and the impact their results will have on the destination of the prize money.
Opmeer switched from Renault to Alfa Romeo, and immediately made his intentions clear in the opening event of the 2020 season. The Dutchman won two of the three races in a style that left his rivals crushed. He proved that this was no fluke in the second event with another trio of podiums – including his third win of the season.
This firmly placed him as the man to beat, and the pressure perhaps began to show in the third event of the season. Disaster struck at Silverstone as Opmeer was knocked out in the first stage of qualifying. He recovered to ninth place in the race, but his progress was limited due to front wing damage he sustained from Floris Wijers’ aggressive defense.
Fifth place at Spa-Francorchamps gave Opmeer another 10 points but it was poor by his high own standards. He returned to form for the final race at Monza, finishing in second place to 2019 champion Tonizza.
Struggled to keep Brendon behind so had to use to much ers to have a go at David. Congrats to @David_Tonizza on the win and @BrendonLeigh72 on giving me a hard time.🙌 pic.twitter.com/ir4hKjjRfE— Jarno Opmeer (@jarno_opmeer) November 19, 2020
That final race was crucial to Opmeer keeping his favorite tag heading into the final three races. He’s not always been the fastest driver over a single lap, but his incredible race pace and overtaking ability will make him difficult to beat.
He’ll also have the full support of his team-mate Daniel Bereznay, who has slipped out of drivers’ championship fight. Unlike Red Bull, there’s no doubt which Alfa needs prioritizing.
If Opmeer can keep his cool when the pressure reaches fever pitch, he has everything he needs to fend off the Red Bull duo.
The nearly man
Frederik Rasmussen was one of only two drivers to properly take the fight to Brendon Leigh during his dominant F1 Esports title winning season in 2018 and he pushed Tonizza all the way to the last race of the 2019 season.
He missed out on that title because he wasn’t originally supposed to be competing in the last race, and thus didn’t practice for it prior to the event. There should be no such issues this time around.
Rasmussen had an average start to the season, but he bounced back in style during event two with a win and a pair of second place finishes. He won in Spa during event three, but it could have been a double victory had he not picked up a corner cutting penalty whilst battling for the lead at Silverstone.
Win in spa, almost perfect teamwork with @marcelkiefer_ again, sadly couldnt get the 1-2 but marcel made the win happen this race👍🙂 pic.twitter.com/ASZs7ZSF3w— Frederik Rasmussen (@G2Frede) November 18, 2020
The Dane has sometimes aired too far on the side of caution during his battles in the championship, but he took big risks during the last event and that mentality places him as Opmeer’s closest challenger.
Making up 19 points on Opmeer across three races is definitely doable, but he’ll have to fend off the intra-team challenge from his team-mate Marcel Kiefer first. This will be no easy task, and something that Rasmussen hasn’t had to contend with in the previous two seasons. Winning the first race at Suzuka (as he did in 2019) would be a good way to cement his status as Red Bull’s most likely champion.
Rasmussen could only manage 10th in the season finale at Interlagos last year but with more preparation this year he can count on a better result, especially considering he’s yet to finish outside the top six this season.
He has been the nearly man over the previous two years, can he finally take center stage and earn a much-deserved F1 Esports drivers’ crown?
Count Marcel Kiefer out at your peril. The German walked into a team dominated by Rasmussen since Red Bull entered the series and staked his claim as the equal number one driver brilliantly. He took four podiums in the first five races before leading a Red Bull 1-2 on its virtual home soil at the Red Bull Ring.
Smooth Operation with @G2Frede pic.twitter.com/HXj0PgsJY0— Marcel Kiefer (@marcelkiefer_) November 6, 2020
Unfortunately, he also picked up a penalty at Silverstone which cost him a podium, but he responded well with his sixth podium of the season at Spa. Kiefer is 32 points adrift of Opmeer in the championship meaning he might have to take a few risks to overhaul his team-mate and the Alfa Romeo driver. Mexico is notorious for its tough track limits, and Kiefer will have to avoid repeating his Silverstone misdemeanor.
The German ace also has to factor in the teams’ championship. Red Bull is desperate to retain its teams’ championship, meaning Kiefer won’t be able to risk everything for the drivers’ title glory.
Although he’s yet to put his Red Bull on pole position, Kiefer has shown a great level of consistency that should place him as a solid outside bet for the title. Regardless of whether he can overturn the 32-point deficit, the smart money is on him helping Red Bull to retain its teams’ championship.
For more information on the F1 Esports Pro Series, you can check out our event coverage here, or the official homepage of F1 Esports. You can watch the final events of the F1 Esports Pro Series presented by Aramco live on the official Twitch channel of Formula 1 on December 16-17.
Who do you think will be crowned the 2020 F1 Esports Pro Series champion? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg!