F1 Esports made its dazzling return on Wednesday! After ten months of waiting, the 2020 F1 Esports Pro Series, presented by Aramco, blasted into life on Wednesday 14 October, with two winners from two races and close racing demonstrating just how close the grid is.
The first two races of the season saw action under the floodlights of Bahrain, and also around the brand-new venue of Vietnam, with the racers sampling Hanoi Street Circuit before the on-track F1 stars get their first taste.
Alfa Romeo’s Jarno Opmeer took victory in the opening race, executing a flawless alternate strategy to come across the line just over one-tenth ahead of his stablemate Dani Bereznay.
Opmeer would go on to impress in the second race as well, fighting for the lead. However, the real fight for the lead was contested between Renault Vitality’s Nicolas Longuet and Ferrari Driver Academy Hublot’s David Tonizza.
Tonizza had endured rotten luck in the opening race, losing his front wing on the opening lap and finishing dead last. But he rallied in the second race to show steely determination, and converted his front-row start into a win, with a daring last-lap pass on Longuet.
THE LONGUET YARD
One man emerged from the opening two qualifying sessions as something of a specialist. Frenchman Nicolas Longuet scorched to pole position in both Bahrain and Vietnam, and recorded a top-five finish in both races.
Though he was unable to record a victory, it’s worth remembering these were only his second and third F1 Esports races proper. Appearing just once for Red Bull Racing Esports in 2019, he showed what he could do, taking a podium and threatening the lead of the race in his sole outing on Monza.
He was overwhelmed in Bahrain, with Bereznay and Tormala getting the better of him on the opening lap, and dropped further due to strategy and the pace of race-winner Jarno Opmeer.
However, his racecraft in Hanoi exhibited a never-say-die attitude, only relinquishing the lead at the very last moment as Tonizza powered through. With a hefty clutch of points and a podium to his name already, Longuet could prove to be one of the rising stars of 2020.
He won twice in 2019, so it was not a huge surprise to see Jarno Opmeer do so again on Wednesday night. The difference was, the Dutchman looked in complete control this time.
Dubbed as ‘The Hotlap specialist’, Opmeer’s ability to produce stunning one-lap speed has not been in doubt, but converting that into consistent race-pace is quite another task.
He was able to do this through careful car management, raw pace, and superior strategy in both races, emerging from this pits in Bahrain behind but making the move on-track to seal the deal.
Again in Hanoi, though he couldn’t quite muster enough to take the win, he took a stint in the lead of the race, ultimately surrendering to Longuet and Tonizza’s preferable track position.
He takes 40 points with him from the opening two races, and will surely be hotly-fancied to take more from the third race in China on Thursday.
TONIZZA TURMOIL… THEN TRIUMPH
You don’t win the F1 Esports series by accident. David Tonizza’s season in 2019 was one of consistency and supreme speed. It was strange then, to see him qualifying well down the order in Bahrain, and finish in dead last.
Had the upbeat Italian lost his flare? Slowed down over the break? Or was he maybe just the victim of bad luck? The latter certainly seemed to ring true when replays showed he was whacked from the side on the opening lap in Bahrain, crippling his front wing and ruining his race.
The man who races with #95 certainly put on a Lightning performance in the second race, though. After bouncing back to take second on the grid in qualifying, Tonizza looked on-song all through the race, running in the top three throughout and putting it all on the line on the very last lap to take a sensational win.
Event 1 isn’t over yet. We have two more streams on the horizon, with our Twitch stream of qualifying getting under way from 15:30 BST on Thursday, followed by the race stream in the evening. Shanghai International Circuit in China is the location, with another 35% race loaded and ready to go.
You can enjoy full, uninterrupted coverage of our third race from 19:30 on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and on TV with our broadcast partners around the world. Wherever you’re watching, we hope you’ll join us as we look to make it three from three in 2020!