Last year, we correctly predicted nearly all of the drivers that would be competing in the F1 Esports Pro Championship. Let’s do it again!
With the release of F1 23, the build up to the F1 Esports Pro Championship has begun. It’s probably still a few months away, with the earliest a season has started since 2018 being early September.
But even with all that time before the opening round, we already have many of the teams having confirmed their line-ups. We also have a good idea of where others will end up. We did this last year, getting 28/30.
We probably won’t get anywhere near that number this year, but let’s see how close we can get! Here are our predictions for the 2023 F1 Esports driver line-up.
Drivers: Lucas Blakeley, Wilson Hughes and Dani Moreno
The reigning driver’s and team’s champions are all pretty easy to predict, considering they’ve already been confirmed. Lucas Blakeley delivered on the promise he’d shown for years with Racing Point/Aston Martin and became the 2022 champion.
With his teammate Bari Broumand departing, that leaves the door open for fellow Scot Wilson Hughes to race. The former PSGL 2-time Tier 1 PlayStation champion never got to compete last year. Now is his chance to deliver on the promise.
Filling the vacated seat is Dani Moreno, who raced for McLaren in his debut season back in 2020. The Spaniard was the top rookie in the standings. He then joined then-champion Jarno Opmeer at Mercedes.
Moreno’s stock might have fallen in that time but he’s a proven race winner and is very much capable of helping McLaren retain the team’s championship.
Drivers: Frederik Rasmussen, Josh Idowu and Sebastian Job
Now for our first bit of guess work. First off, Frederik Rasmussen is a shoe-in, having been in the Red Bull fold since the very beginning, and there are no signs of him going anywhere. Next is Josh Idowu, the former McLaren driver jumped ship to AlphaTauri and ended last season with three podiums, a pole and seventh in the standings despite missing four races.
With Marcel Kiefer moving to another team, it seems certain that Idowu will be Rasmussen’s next teammate. Red Bull have solely operated as a two driver team since 2020, with their third driver not getting any race time. So who could that be a job for?
2020 Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup champion Sebastian Job has had two seasons in F1 Esports. He has earned some strong points finishes, and we’d like to have seen him carry on full time but his efforts may be needed elsewhere. Job raced the last three rounds of the ESL R1 Spring Season, and somehow almost qualified for the Major.
With Job’s PESC season complete and former AlphaTauri teammate Joni Törmälä (who made it to Day 2 of the R1 Major) now prioritising F1 Esports, Job could be set to focus instead on the R1 Fall Season. But if Rasmussen or Idowu fall sick, Job can be on hand to take their place in F1 Esports and can get a strong finish for sure.
Drivers: Alfie Butcher, Ulaş Özyıldırım and Iker Baena
After many years at the tail end of the grid, Haas’ fortunes turned with the signing of Thomas Ronhaar. But now, R8G Esports have started running another team and Ronhaar has gone there, so who are Haas going to have racing for them?
Our first two guesses are both R8G drivers, and also the top two from F1 Esports PC Challengers. Starting off we have Alfie Butcher, the driver who nobody expected to contend for the title but came out on top in dominant fashion. R8G will be clinging to him, as well as Ulaş Özyıldırım who is a known quantity across the entire sim racing space.
As for the third driver, Iker Baena is currently aiming to get his Pro Championship licence via the DHL Time Trial. He is also part of R8G Esports and competed in Challengers for the previous two years. His best finish in Challengers was only 12th, but he is a proven quantity, running in the top PC tiers in PSGL and WOR, and finished runner up in PSGL’s second PC tier.
But assuming Baena doesn’t get the licence, Haas have plenty of other drivers to pick out of their R8G pool, and potentially one driver on loan from another team who we will get to. But can these drivers help Haas retain third place in the championship?
Drivers: Jarno Opmeer, Marcel Kiefer and Daniel Bereznay
Easy here, 2-time champion Jarno Opmeer remains at Mercedes where he has been since 2021. His teammates on the other hand have both been signed. However, herein lies a bit of a conundrum. Marcel Kiefer jumps ship from Red Bull having had a bit of a lacklustre 2022. But one bad year after two very strong ones shouldn’t see him left on the sidelines.
Interestingly though, they also signed Daniel Bereznay. Formerly a Mercedes driver in 2018 when he was runner-up in the championship, the Hungarian has suffered a few torrid seasons in the years since. This begs the question, where is Jake Benham? Having four Pro Championship drivers means one will miss out, and we fear it might be Benham.
We hope we are wrong. Benham did the second half of the season and got two points finishes, and his potential is clear for all to see. But perhaps it would make sense to lease him out to another team so he can develop further, maybe Haas if Baena doesn’t make it.
Ultimately, Mercedes certainly won’t be short on experience with their line-up of Opmeer, Kiefer and Bereznay, but perhaps their overall potential could be limited.
Drivers: Thomas Ronhaar, Brendon Leigh and Matthijs van Erven
If you had not already guessed, Alfa Romeo is the team now under R8G’s management after being Veloce controlled since 2018. As a result of this move, Alfa have picked up some very big signings. First and foremost, there is championship contender and top rookie Thomas Ronhaar who will most likely be leading the charge.
Next up is Brendon Leigh, the 2-time champion left Ferrari and signed for R8G Esports. He had a decent 2022, scoring the one podium. But, it was far from what he had accomplished in past seasons. Alfa Romeo have tasted F1 Esports title success before with Opmeer, but can Ronhaar and Leigh help them rediscover it?
It would be quite easy to overlook Matthijs van Erven with the teammates he has, but he’s a proven and underrated driver. He didn’t get to race a lot in 2022 with Haas, only taking part in five races. Nevertheless, he scored 12 points.
It’s hard to believe van Erven will get many more outings than a championship contender and former champion. In any case, a very strong line-up for Alfa Romeo.
Drivers: Joni Törmälä, Tom Manley and Jed Norgrove
Törmälä has been at AlphaTauri since 2020, and has been a steady pair of hands and scored points consistently. The team will be looking to him to lead, especially as he may have some brand new teammates.
One certainty is Tom Manley, the 2021 F1 Esports Challengers Xbox champion. They were dominant on the way to the title, and have even been running up at the front on PC with some of the top drivers.
Lastly, Jed Norgrove who was third in last year’s Xbox Challengers. With Törmälä leading the charge and two rookies hoping to make an impact, it might very well be the balance AlphaTauri need to deliver the goods.
Drivers: Bari Broumand, Nicolas Longuet and Tomasz Poradzisz
Now for another confirmed trio. Ferrari’s esports team have been moved to be under the control of Veloce alongside McLaren. With that come three drivers from the Veloce fold. Former McLaren driver Bari Broumand helped them seal the team’s championship, and is considered by many to be the favourite for the driver’s title this year.
Along with Bari are last year’s Alfa Romeo drivers Nicolas Longuet and Tomasz Poradzisz. The Frenchman has raced for Red Bull, Renault/Alpine and Alfa, he has won races and would be a very safe pair of hands. Exactly what Ferrari may need, as they will want the team’s championship.
Additionally, Poradzisz – the 2022 PC Challengers champion – comes off a lacklustre first season after finally becoming eligible to compete. Having been on par with the best in F1 Esports for many years, the Pole will be keen to make big on his promise.
Broumand, Longuet and Poradzisz are all very capable drivers. Watch out for Ferrari to make a big impression in 2023.
Drivers: Fabrizio Donoso, Simon Weigang and John Evans
Little change here. Weigang and Evans are both staying on, whilst Manuel Biancolilla has taken a step away from the F1 game. The Italian has proven to be immensely quick on other platforms, so expect to see him in competitions on different games.
So who is taking that vacated place? Well that would be Fabrizio Donoso, who has been around a lot in F1 Esports. He started out with Force India, then to Renault/Alpine, Ferrari and now he will come back to the team he began with.
With Evans’ rookie campaign not seeing any points scored and Biancolilla struggling, Weigang was Aston’s sole representative in the points. So with two experienced points finishers and a driver now in their second season, can Aston expect major improvement?
Drivers: Patrik Sipos, Luke Smith and Rubén Pedreño
Alpine had a torrid season in 2022, losing Longuet and Donoso definitely contributed. With Filip Prešnajder taking a step back, Patrik Sipos and Luke Smith will be joined by another relative newcomer.
Rubén Pedreño was the odds on favourite to win the PC Challengers title. It may not have panned out that way, but the Spaniard is still a phenomenal talent. Pedreño entered into the final round of World Online Racing’s PC Tier 1 Season 13 in mathematical contention for the title, alongside Opmeer and Ronhaar.
It may not be a line-up of experience but the potential is clear to see with all three. But still, could lacking an experienced hand prove detrimental to Alpine?
Drivers: Álvaro Carretón, Shanaka Clay and Ismael Fahssi/Jake Benham
Last but not least, Williams will be hoping for more this year and they’re sticking to their guns. Álvaro Carretón has been with the team since the beginning, and Shanaka Clay joined last season. Both remain on the team but Daniele Haddad has departed, so who will be their third driver?
First up for potential Williams driver is Ismael Fahssi, who was 3rd in PC Challengers to Butcher and Özyıldırım. Fahssi has been immensely impressive and is undoubtedly a star of the future, but his place may depend on where another driver ends up.
Williams has always had a very good working relationship with Mercedes, especially in sim racing. So it may not be outside the realm of possibility that they have Jake Benham loaned out to them for this season.
In either case, Williams will have a third driver with a load of potential. Whether it’s Fahssi or Benham joining them, Williams can aim high this season.
One of the names not seen here is David Tonizza, the 2019 champion could end up not racing. We hope that we’re wrong of course. He finished ahead of then-teammate Donoso last season, both doing six races.
Another absence is former Haas driver Piotr Stachulec, who was one of three drivers who failed to score last season. He suffered torrid fortunes throughout. But, like fellow Pole Poradzisz, he also has plenty of potential.
But that’s just how it is in this unforgiving competitive world of F1 Esports.
Who do you think should be in the F1 Esports Pro Championship this season? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!