Finally, the battle between Jarno Opmeer and Frede Rasmussen was concluded at Interlagos for the F1 Esports Pro Series round twelve. It was not the finale we hoped to see.
Photo credit: Joe Brady
After eleven races spanning four events with five different race winners, the F1 Esports Pro Series 2020 came to its conclusion on December 17. After the previous day’s action, both the driver’s and constructor’s championships were still contested. In the former, Jarno Opmeer led Frede Rasmussen by a comfortable, but not insurmountable margin of 16 points. The team’s standings saw Red Bull Racing Esports Team leading Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen Esports by 39 points, meaning that championship glory was all but secured for the Austrian outfit.
Contenders disappoint in qualifying
On to the final destination of the season then, and it was a classic championship decider in the form of Interlagos in Brazil. Many Formula 1 drivers throughout history have claimed the title at the venue, and either Opmeer or Rasmussen were soon to do the same in F1 Esports.
It started with qualifying, which saw all of the primary contenders making it through to the pole position shoot-out that is the third qualifying session. The final seconds of qualifying were a sight to behold. One by one, five drivers took the top spot within a matter of a few seconds, with Frenchman Nicolas Longuet claiming pole at the death.
Intriguingly, neither of the championship contenders managed to put themselves in the frame for pole. In fact, when the time came to line up on the grid Opmeer sat in seventh. This ought to have been a blessing for Rasmussen, who would have wanted to seize the opportunity to overhaul the points deficit to Opmeer that was presented by the Dutchman’s sub-par performance. Unfortunately for the Dane, he did nothing of the sort. Ninth on the grid was all that he could manage.
Meanwhile, both drivers’ teammates managed to get further up the order, with Red Bull’s Marcel Kiefer starting on the front row in second and Daniel Bereznay popping his Alfa into fifth. Alfa Romeo needed to claim big points while Red Bull floundered if they were to have any hope, and the outcome of qualifying did not suit them one bit.
Rasmussen misses opportunity
As soon as the race got underway, Frede Rasmussen was attempting to put right the wrongs of qualifying by managing to pass two cars in the first few corners, including his championship rival Opmeer. Bereznay also started well, gaining a position off the line at the expense of Rookie of the Year Dani Moreno in the McLaren Shadow.
Both Rasmussen and Opmeer decided to start on medium tires, putting them at odds with the front few cars in terms of strategy. As per usual with F1 Esports in 2020, the first few laps were a cagey affair. The drivers were waiting for the pit stop phase to try to make a difference. Low levels of tire wear at Interlagos meant that pitting early was a viable strategy, and that’s exactly what Rasmussen did in a bid to undercut his opponents, thereby moving further up the order.
It was the end of lap seven when Rasmussen became the third driver of the race to stop. Now was the time for the Danish driver to make the difference on his fresh, soft tires. Alas for Rasmussen, it was not to be. Not only was his pace insufficient to catapult him up the order, he picked up a penalty on his way into the pits, effectively scuppering his championship challenge.
Opmeer was not balked by Rasmussen’s gamble, as was evident when the Alfa Romeo man neglected to respond to the Red Bull pit stop until the end of lap fourteen. By waiting so long to apply the fresh tires, Opmeer sacrificed multiple positions. However, the fresher rubber would pay dividends later in the race. Indeed, it was the final lap of the race that saw Opmeer overtake Rasmussen for seventh place. It was a symbolic gesture more than anything else, as Rasmussen’s penalty would knock him out of the points come the chequered flag, but Opmeer made the move stick nevertheless.
F1 ESPORTS WORLD CHAMPION. 16 years of hard work to get my first world championship. Thanks to every single person who have helped me along this journey and especially my dad who started all of this.🙏🙌❤ pic.twitter.com/8QpuPyEj5C— Jarno Opmeer (@jarno_opmeer) December 17, 2020
Crossing the line in seventh isn’t usually much to shout about, but it was enough for Opmeer to secure his first F1 Esports Pro Series title, while Alfa Romeo wrapped up the constructor’s fight as well. Meanwhile, victory in the race went to Renault Vitality man and polesitter Nicolas Longuet, who fought for the win tooth and nail with Kiefer on the last laps of the race. Although Rasmussen didn’t turn the tide in the championship battle, the runner-up and Kiefer deservedly secured Red Bull’s consecutive constructors title.