Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team took the V10-R League championship down to the final race of the season, suffering a narrow defeat that meant BMW Sim Racing Team won the title.
The team entered the final off the back of a strong campaign, finishing second in its group during the regular season, courtesy of victories against Romain Grosjean’s R8G Esports Team and Yas Heat, bolstered further by points scored against Red Bull and Team Redline.
The driver line-up of Lucas Blakeley, Daniele Haddad and Shanaka Clay then maintained their form into the playoffs, defeating Formula One rivals Williams and McLaren along the way.
The final took place across Silverstone and the Yas Marina Circuit, with both venues chosen by the V10-R League rather than the teams.
A strong start to the opening Relay Race at Silverstone enabled Daniele and the team to lead through the first stint, but, after handing over to Lucas, the team re-joined the circuit 0.001s too quickly and earned a three-second time penalty. Lucas and Shanaka combined to beat BMW by 1.7 seconds on the road, but it wasn’t enough to overturn the deficit.
The Team Race also featured disappointing luck as Lucas was caught up in an incident at the start before a BMW driver rear-ended Daniele and ruined his race. Despite a penalty for BMW for the collision with Daniele, the damage was already done and left Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team needing to win both Yas Marina races and significantly outscore BMW in the Team Race finale to take the title.
The team responded strongly to adversity to claim victory in the Relay Race, narrowing BMW’s advantage to 2-1 in the process.
Track limits proved to the deciding factor in the victory, allayed with strong pace that kept the pressure on the German manufacturer. A string of track-limit violations earned BMW a five-second time penalty and, while Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team earned a three-second penalty for similar infringements, it was enough to overturn a 1.3s defeat on the road into victory.
Sadly, chaos at the start of the Team Race played a crucial factor in the outcome. Lucas made a strong start to leapfrog Daniele into second but contact from a BMW forced both drivers into a spin.
While Shanaka avoided the melee to run second and threatened to pass Siggy for the lead throughout the race, it was an uphill battle, and BMW held on to win the title.
Finishing as runner up in the V10-R League is a significant improvement on Team Silverstone’s efforts in the inaugural season and Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team is aiming to carry the momentum into the F1 Esports Pro Series, which begins later this year.
Lucas Blakeley, Driver, Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team, said: “It was an incredibly close final, and I am really disappointed that, from my side, it was decided by being taken out at the first corner [of the Team Race].
“It meant I could not help the team fight at the front, which was frustrating. It did not feel like we were able to really showcase our strengths in the final. But credit to BMW, they did a great job.
“It hurts not to have taken the win as we have dedicated several months to this, but we can be proud of our season. On reflection, we made a huge step forward this year and it’s great to see hard work pay off.”
Daniele Haddad, Driver, Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team, said: “We just needed a little bit more luck in the final, although I think it was always going to be a bit tougher as we did not quite match BMW in qualifying. I think that had a big impact on the races.
“I was very impressed with BMW; they drove great races. From our side, it was very close racing and made more complicated by the pitlane penalty at Silverstone [in the Relay Race]. We were stronger at Yas Marina, but we just could not do enough to win the title. It is disappointing, but we can be proud of our season too.”
Shanaka Clay, Driver, Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team, said: “It is obviously a disappointment to lose the final, but putting it in perspective, we have made a huge step forward this season.
“Looking at the high level of competition in the series, we thought it would be a good campaign if we were able to make it out of the group stage, which we managed comfortably. I am very proud of our efforts as a team.
“With the benefit of hindsight, there were a few things we could have optimised, but there was also a lot of things that were out of our hands in the final. It is sad that things like collisions played such a deciding factor, but I think we can learn from them going into the F1 Esports Pro Series.”