Title contenders battle it out in Japan and Mexico, with it all going right down to the wire in the final race in Brazil.
Photo credit: Jacob Hancox
The final F1 Esports Pro Series 2020 event of the 2020 season commenced on December 16, with two of the final three races of the season taking place. Going into the event the drivers’ championship standings had Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen Esports Jarno Opmeer in the top spot, 19 points clear of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Frede Rasmussen in second. Rasmussen’s teammate Marcel Kiefer was a further 13 points back, but still in with a reasonable shout of taking the title, if the races went his way.
However, while Opmeer’s strong performances in the early stages of the season had seen him retain the top spot in the championship for the vast majority of the season, the momentum lay with the Red Bull duo, who had been slowly but surely eating into the points deficit between themselves and Opmeer. Indeed, the lead in the constructor’s championship had already changed hands, with Red Bull holding a 32-point lead over Alfa Romeo.
Suzuka: Rasmussen closes in on Opmeer
The first race of the day took place at the Suzuka International Circuit, the site of the Japanese Grand Prix. It was immediately clear in qualifying that the Red Bull drivers had the bit between their teeth, with them taking the two fastest times in the final qualifying session. A grid penalty for Kiefer spoiled the party somewhat for the Austrian outfit, but there wasn’t much to complain about with Rasmussen on pole and Kiefer starting on the second row in fourth. Meanwhile, championship leader Opmeer would have to make do with sixth spot on the grid.
In the race itself Rasmussen found himself placed under pressure into the very first corner by Nicolas Longuet, who elevated his Renault Vitality past the Dane and up into first place. Kiefer and Opmeer started the race on medium compound tires, and as a result went for the reverse strategy compared to the front runners. After the pit-stops had shaken out, Opmeer found himself down in ninth. But with fresh, soft tires he charged back up towards the front.
That is exactly what the Dutch driver did, as he put on a spirited display to rise as high as fourth by the chequered flag, finishing just ahead of one of his major rivals in the form of Kiefer. Meanwhile at the very top of the order, Rasmussen dispatched Longuet into turn one on the penultimate lap of the race, and held the lead to win with the Renault driver behind in second. It was a surprise result for third, with Daniele Haddad claiming his best result of the season.
Opmeer defends championship lead in Mexico
Qualifying for the second race of the day at the Mexican Grand Prix circuit delivered a perfect front row. The primary challenger to Opmeer’s status as the heir apparent to David Tonizza’s F1 Esports crown, that is to say Frede Rasmussen, was once again on pole position. Alongside him in second was none other than Opmeer himself. Just behind in fourth once again sat Marcel Kiefer, whose dreams of the drivers’ championship were surely dwindling by the second.
Right away, things went from bad to worse for Kiefer. The German had to take evasive action to avoid the spinning car of Tonizza in turn one, and as a result slipped down to fifth place off the start. Meanwhile, the front two remained in formation until the Red Bull of Rasmussen pitted at the end of lap ten. When Opmeer stopped two laps later, he lost out to both Red Bulls as well as the Mercedes AMG Petronas Esports Team driver and former champion Brendon Leigh.
The flying Dutchman was not disheartened, though, as he set about scything his way past both Leigh and Kiefer, who could do nothing to allay his advance. Nevertheless, Rasmussen was still ahead. The ball still seemed to be in his court, until the radio message came, with the Danish driver stating simply, “I have damage.” While a hindrance, the damage was evidently not enough to make things easy for Opmeer behind. It took three more laps until he could slide pass Rasmussen and into first position. From that point on, he had the win in the bag. And he claimed it at the chequered flag by a margin of over two seconds to Leigh who stole second place away from Rasmussen.
ESPORTS STANDINGS— Formula 1 (@F1) December 16, 2020
📊 Red Bull lead Alfa Romeo by 39 points
📊 Opmeer leads Rasmussen by 16 points
It goes down to our FINAL race in Brazil on Thursday! 🇧🇷#F1Esports 🎮 #F1 @Aramco pic.twitter.com/89lTHO8Pkx
With only one race to go in the season, both championships still have it all to play for. Red Bull have a significant lead over Alfa in the constructor’s, while Opmeer retains his advantage over Rasmussen by a narrower margin: Only 16 points separate the title contenders. To catch the final race of the season, head over to Formula 1’s YouTube or Twitch channels at 8.30 PM CET tonight, December 17.
Who do you think will take the crown? Tell us on Twitter at @overtake_gg!