While podium finishes and race wins usually grab all the plaudits in esports racing, sometimes there are equally impressive performances further down the field that get ignored.
Photo credit: Codemasters / EA
We all know about Jarno Opmeer’s incredible strategy call to claim victory in China in the F1 Esports Pro Series 2021, and rightly so! It was a performance worthy of all the praise it received. But for every incredible race win or podium charge, there are equally impressive races being driven further back which are less likely to get noticed.
Because of this, we thought it would be a good idea to pick out a few of the greatest F1 Esports Pro Championship performances from this season which didn’t result in at least a podium finish. So, without any further ado, here are the three best drives of F1 Esports’ 2021 season which you probably didn’t notice.
Rasmussen’s Bahrain Strategy Masterclass
At the very start of the season, there was significant cause for concern for fans of the perennial F1 Esports bridesmaid Frede Rasmussen. The Dane had qualified for the Bahrain Grand Prix down in fourteenth place, a long way away from the podium contention that he has so often been in recent years. What’s worse, Frede didn’t get a terribly good start to the race either; for the first half of lap one, he was fending off the attacks of Simon Weigang, rather than making any forward progress.
Given how close the field is in the Pro Championship, the opening lap is one of the key moments where overtaking is somewhat possible. It gets much, much harder to make progress through such an evenly-matched field once things have settled down. This is especially true when you then lose a position on lap three, as Rasmussen did when Michael Romanidis overtook him into turn four. After nine laps of being stuck in the DRS-train, F1 Esports’ own Iceman decided to pit, being the first driver who started on mediums to do so.
Bahrain, massive fps drops=race and Q ruined— Frederik Rasmussen (@G2Frede) October 13, 2021
China, double stacking is broken=race ruined
Two laps later, the four cars who had been ahead of Rasumssen in the train pitted. Because of his aggressive call to go early onto the softs, the Dane pulled off a mega undercut, emerging from the pit window in seventh position, rather than the fifteenth he had been in before. All those positions gained, and yet the Red Bull Racing Esports driver only pulled off a grand total of two overtakes all race. Of the eight cars he undercut, only the Mercedes AMG Petronas Esports Team of Dani Moreno managed to get back past him, and Frede held on to cross the line in seventh.
Romanidis’ Breakout Race in China
Williams second-year driver Michael Romanidis is someone who hasn’t had the best of times in F1 Esports so far. The Greek racer took home seven points from as many race starts in the 2020 Pro Series, and with the recent acquisition of Alessio Di Capua at Williams Esports F1 , the pressure is on to deliver some big performances in 2021. The need for such a performance was only intensified by the first race of the season at Bahrain, where Romanidis ended up twentieth and last despite a bright start.
Looking at the grid line-up for the next race in China, it was hard to see where a spark would come from. Romanidis qualified down in seventeenth. However, the race was a wet one, and in such conditions a breakout performance is always possible, and that’s exactly what Michael had. Straight away, the Williams driver was gaining places. Two positions off of the start line put him in fifteenth, however this was only the beginning.
P9 in China, we managed to get both crossover laps perfect and with some further luck we got into the points with 8 positions gained! 🏁🇨🇳— Michael Romanidis (@Michael_MR53) October 13, 2021
This is what F1 Esports needed with the split strategies, congrats to @jarno_opmeer for making the bold strategy work! 👏 pic.twitter.com/M6uRZtC3to
In turn six on the opening lap of the race, Romanidis pulled off an overtake on not one, not two, but five cars all at once! Sadly, the action was not caught on broadcast, but it seemed to have something to do with an incident between David Tonizza and Simon Weigang. Whatever the cause, Romanidis had put himself into a point scoring position by gaining seven places on the opening lap alone. Ultimately, Romanidis came home in ninth, having run as high as seventh during the race. Most of the work was done on lap one, but Michael made his advantage stick.
Tonizza keeps his head while others lose theirs
Imagine the disappointment of not only one-time F1 Esports champion David Tonizza, but of all of the esports Tifosi, when the Italian only managed to put his FDA Esports Team car fourteenth on the grid for his home race at Monza. However, there was still nineteen laps of racing to occur at the temple of speed, and David had points in his sights.
On the first lap Tonzilla took his first victim – Haas rookie Matthijs van Erven, but this was only a taste of what was to come. As Rasmussen had done back in Bahrain, the Italian went for a very early pitstop, backing the soft tyres to last from lap four until the very end of the race. Despite spending a lap or two locked in combat with fellow early-pitter Joni Törmälä, the Ferrari strategy call was effective. Tonizza found himself in eighth place once everybody had stopped.
With some of the oldest tyres in the field, the usual expectation would be that Tonizza would slip down the order as the race wore on. However, such expectations fail to account for the passion that a home race can bring, and also for a chaotic final few lap. As some of the greatest talents in F1 Esports fell around him, the Ferrari man kept his nose clean, and pounced on any wounded competitors when the time was right. At the chequered flag, Tonizza had pulled off one of the drives of the season to finish in fourth, one place away from the podium.
What underrated drives did we miss? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!