Lucas Blakely and Daniele Haddad charged through the field to ensure a double-points finish in F1 Esports Pro Series’ Event Two finale at the Red Bull Ring.
Qualifying remained extremely close throughout the event and the team fell narrowly short of Q3 in Austria, with Lucas and Daniele lining up in P12 and P14 respectively.
The pair opted to start on the Medium tyre compound and remained in touch with a train of cars in the battle for points early on. Lucas would swiftly gain a place and then jumped past a Mercedes rival through the pitstop window to come out in a net P10 for the second stint.
The best was yet to come when Lucas successfully came out on top of a battle with a Ferrari and a McLaren to move into P8 in the final phases of the race, which became P7 after the application of post-race penalties.
Those same penalties helped boost Daniele into P9 after crossing the line in P11 following a long-running battle with a train of cars fighting for the Top 10.
The Italian had also been in contention for points in the previous race at Montreal, making up three places from P13 on a short opening stint on the Softs. Daniele then picked his way up the order from P17 back into P10 through a combination of strategy and strong overtaking in the second stint.
But Daniele was cruelly denied points by last-lap contact through no fault of his own that left him in P15.
Lucas was hindered by a track limits penalty and contact of his own that meant he remained in his starting place of P12, despite pressuring those ahead.
Zandvoort proved to be a difficult start to Event Two, but it did mark Shanaka’s debut in the F1 Esports Pro Series. Lucas and Shanaka narrowly missed out on Q2, taking P18 and P20 on a narrow track with limited overtaking opportunities.
Despite the challenges, Lucas made an incredible start by gaining four places on the opening lap as Shanaka made up two places.
Shanaka then ran one of the longest opening stints of the race to move into P5, but any chance of making the Top 10 was lost due to a pitlane speeding penalty during his pitstop.
The pair then ran on the fringes of the Top 10 in the second stint. Battling against their Haas, Renault and McLaren rivals, Shanaka would cross the line in P14 with Lucas in P16, but in-race penalties through the field meant the two swapped places post-race.
Lucas Blakeley: “We managed to get a solid result for the team by getting both cars into the points in Austria and it’s a great feeling after a couple of tough races in Event Two. It might only have been P7, but honestly it felt like a podium as Dani and I did a good job out there on the alternate strategy.
“Getting the Driver of the Day award also feels pretty special. We know we have room to improve and we will go through everything with a fine comb and analyse it all as we’ve put a lot of hard work in and not quite got the results we warranted in the Netherlands and Canada.
“Zandvoort was always going to be tricky once we qualified down the field, but we moved forward which was important. We made a step in qualifying in Canada, but the race was really unfortunate.
“I’m not sure why I was unable to get the most out of the car but Dani did and he was so unlucky not to score points. But overall, I’m happy and we’re excited for Event Three.”
Shanaka Clay: “I’m delighted to have made my debut for the team in the F1 Esports Pro Series, but I think we were quite unlucky at Zandvoort. We had some decent pace but we couldn’t extract it fully in qualifying to move into Q2 and then Q3.
“We missed out by a couple of hundredths of a second and on another day, we could’ve been higher up the order. With hindsight, I think we might have missed something in the set-up, so we’ll look into that and see what we can learn. In Canada, as a team we were stronger but we couldn’t make it to Q3.
“It was a tough race to make progress in for Lucas and Daniele, but they both drove strongly and Dani was unlucky to miss out on the points through no fault of his own.
“I was really happy to see them both score points in Austria to end the event on a high and it was definitely deserved. We’ll work hard between now and Event Three to make sure we fight towards the front of the field.”
Daniele Haddad: “I think we performed really well in this event. We improved a lot overnight and we got what we deserved with a double-points finish in Austria. I honestly think we could’ve made it to Q3, but regardless our race pace was really strong and we need to build on that in the coming events.
“In some ways it feels like I scored points in two of the three races, as we were definitely on course to do so in Canada. I had a collision at the end, which was not my fault, and it prevented me from scoring points. I was in P10 but I had damage to the front wing.
“The qualifying pace has been tricky in Event Two and we know we need to work on it. There’s promising signs in the team that we can compete even higher up the field, but we need to execute it more consistently. We’ve continued to score points, so I’m positive about Event Three.”