The climax of the 2022 F1 Esports Pro Championship is almost upon us. It has provided close, intense racing from start to finish with some controversy scattered in there too. 5 drivers are in contention for the world title as we head into the final round, separated by just 22 points. The question is which one of them will take home their share of 750,000 dollars this week? Let’s delve into it.
The season so far
It seems so long ago since the season got underway in Bahrain. The book of form, which up to this has been rather formulaic, was completely thrown out the window this year. A different driver, or set of drivers, rose to the top in events one, two, and three. The series started as many would have expected. The McLaren Shadow line-up of Lucas Blakeley and Bari Boroumand took control at the front of the field in Bahrain securing a first and a third place split by the reigning champion, Mercedes’ Jarno Opmeer. This was not a surprise to me or any fans of the league racing scene. Lucas and Bari were on the top of their game in leagues such as PSGL and WOR, with Lucas winning the PSGL title in a controversial last lap at Monza.
The point is league racing is the feeder series to the F1 Esports Pro Championship and F1 Challengers and is an excellent barometer for what we could expect. Blakeley took home back-to-back wins in Bahrain and Imola and a third place in Silverstone to really cement his hold on the championship. The ever-consistent Red Bull Racing Esports driver Frederik Rasmussen took victory at the British Grand Prix. Where the ‘league racing barometer’ really proved its worth was the rise of the young Dutchman, Thomas Ronhaar. Ronhaar made his debut in F1 Esports this year driving for Haas. Again, those who may not have seen him before would have written him off as a rookie. Haas, like its real-life counterpart, has struggled to score points. Those who watched Ronhaar league racing through the years, both on Xbox and PC, would’ve known what to expect. A pole position and a 4th place in the second race of event one and a debut podium at Silverstone set up what would turn into a sensational charge for the title in his rookie season.
Ronhaar started event two with a bang, taking his first win in just his fourth race in the series. This was a great reward for a young man who has clearly put in a lot of effort to prove he is capable. The feat was even more impressive considering he had failed to secure a win in PSGL PC up until that point, despite having the most pole positions of anyone. Rasmussen followed in second place, with Josh Idowu making a welcome return to the podium. The form bounced back to McLaren with Boroumand and Blakeley taking victories in rounds five and six. The emotions for Bari were high as he secured his first ever win in the series, a win which was long overdue for the Iranian. The results of event two left Blakeley in a strong position going into event three.
Event 3: Controversy
It was here in event three that the championship was blown wide open. Ronhaar took his second win of the season at Monza, fending off the charging Boroumand around the final corner. The two Alfa Romeos of Nicolas Longuet and Dani Bereznay as an excellent strategy call put them ahead of both Rasmussen and Blakeley. This allowed Ronhaar and Boroumand to close in on the championship leader.
However, the next race in Mexico will live in the memory of fans and drivers alike for many years to come. Two-time champion, Jarno Opmeer made a glorious return to form to take his first win of the season so far while chaos unfolded behind him. A bizarre collision between Ronhaar and Rasmussen earned the Dane a 10-place grid penalty for the next race and a 10 second time penalty, dropping him outside of the points and permanently damaging a glowing reputation. Championship leader Blakeley could only manage seventh while rivals Boroumand and Ronhaar secured the other podium places.
This incredibly controversial race was followed by a last-lap dash to the finish in the final round of event three at the Circuit of the Americas. An incredible battle between the four cars of Ronhaar, Boroumand, Opmeer, and the resurgent Brendan Leigh ended with a stunning double overtake by Opmeer to take back-to-back victories and bring himself into contention for the championship. Ronhaar took second place on track and also second in the championship while Boroumand dropped to fourth as Brendan Leigh took his first podium in two years. Blakeley recovered to sixth.
It's (virtual) race week! 🎮
Five contenders go into the final event of the year with a chance at glory, as the F1 Esports Series Pro Championship comes to a close 👑#F1Esports #F1 pic.twitter.com/s2JRJ7ehPn
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 12, 2022
So, who takes the championship?
Five drivers are now in contention for the championship with just one event remaining. Three races to decide the closest season since the series began. Blakeley still holds a 12 point advantage over Ronhaar in second place but with the consistency of Ronhaar and the return to form of Jarno Opmeer, he needs to get back to winning ways. Opmeer is carrying momentum and he is the only man out of the top four drivers to have won a championship. That experience of winning two titles may give him an advantage over the others. However, Boroumand can never be ruled out either. He had a very solid event three with two second-place finishes and a fourth.
Predictions: The next race takes us to Suzuka. The PSGL race from the latest season saw Ronhaar take pole, but victory went to Blakeley ahead of Opmeer with Boroumand in fifth. Following on from Suzuka is Interlagos in Brazil. The last F1 Esports race held here saw Rasmussen take victory ahead of Blakeley with Opmeer fifth. The final round in Abu Dhabi suggests an Opmeer win ahead of Boroumand. While some of these results occurred on the last iteration of the F1 game, it does give us a slight indication of who might be on form. Ronhaar is the dark horse for this championship and cannot be ruled out. Rasmussen is also in the championship fight and, despite what happened in Mexico, has a real shot at winning. It is wide open so my prediction to win is: NO IDEA!!
The final event of this year’s F1 Esports championship begins on the 14th of December.
Extra Resources: For those of you who have never heard of league racing or F1 Esports, check out the following links.