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Uralkali Haas F1 Esports
Uralkali Haas F1 Esports

The 2021 F1 Esports Series Pro Championship sparked into life on Wednesday at the Bahrain International Circuit, with Cedric Thomé and Matthijs van Erven eager to open their accounts for Uralkali Haas F1 Esports.

An action-packed qualifying session saw the entire grid within .663 of a second of each other, and it was Nicolas Longuet (Alpine) who achieved pole position with a quickest lap time of 1:25.063. Thomé set his best time of 1:25.500 to qualify 17th with Van Erven clocking 1:25.726 to line-up 19th on the grid.

With both opting for Yellow medium tires to start the race, Thomé and Van Erven played it smart, keeping a clean opening lap and managing to climb up the order with no damage through the first half of the race.

On lap 10, Thomé came into the pits from 12th position to put on a new set of Red soft rubber for his second stint. Thomé rejoined the race in P19, but quickly dispatched the Scuderia AlphaTauri of Joni Törmälä on his out lap. Two laps later, Van Erven mirrored his teammate’s tire strategy, coming back out in P18. 

A couple of laps later came the battle of the race, with a three-wide fight for 15th position between Thomé, Van Erven and Thijmen Schütte. The Alfa Romeo ORLEN F1 Esports driver became the filling in a Uralkali Haas F1 Esports sandwich, losing out to Van Erven, who gained a position in the jostle. Both cars maintained their positions to the checkered flag, with Matthijs Van Erven coming across the line in 15th, and Cedric Thomé following behind in 16th. 

Up front, it was Lucas Blakeley and Aston Martin Cognizant Esports who took the first win of the Esports season, with Alvaro Carreton (Williams) and Nicolas Lounguet (Alpine) rounding out the podium.

Uralkali Haas F1 Esports

It was a busy opening day of the 2021 F1 Esports Series Pro Championship as teams and drivers then travelled to the other side of Asia, to the Shanghai International Circuit, for Round 2. 

A sunny qualifying session resulted in Van Erven and Thomé finishing P19 (1:30.628) and P20 (1:32.133), with neither managing to get a clean lap in before the session timed out. Bari Boroumand of McLaren Shadow put it on pole with the quickest lap time of 1:29.843.

Conditions took a turn for the worse for the race, with rain and standing water covering the track. The majority of the grid, including Van Erven and Thomé, chose Blue wet tires, while Mercedes’ Jarno Opmeer, starting from 14th, opted for Green intermediates. 

A cautious start from the entire grid meant for a frantic opening lap, with the back of the field providing most of the action through the opening phase of the race. Van Erven jumped Opmeer and Alfa Romeo ORLEN F1 Esports driver Filip Presnajder, with Thomé soon following in his footsteps, climbing to 13th and 15th, respectively.

It was on Lap 6 that half of the grid decided to take a risk and head into the pits for Green intermediates, pushing Thomé up the order to 7th. One lap later, with lap times dropping, the German swapped his tires for a fresh set of Green intermediates.

The first round of pitstops put Van Erven in 13th and Thomé in 18th, with only Opmeer deciding to go long on his first stint.

On Lap 17, Alpine driver Longuet was the first to test out the Red soft tires, and it didn’t take long before his teammate Fabrizio Donoso led a train of cars into the pitlane to follow suit. Van Erven felt confident to trial out the Red softs, with Thomé joining the trend one lap later, along with Opmeer who finally pitted for softs. 

With all cars back out for the final few laps, Matthijs Van Erven drove it home to finish P13 and Cedric Thomé crossed the line in P15.

Donoso overcut Opmeer in the pitstops, but the reigning champion held his nerve to overtake his closest rival on track to regain the lead of the race and take his first win of the Esports season. 

Uralkali Haas F1 Esports

After a good night’s sleep for all, it was the turn of the Red Bull Ring to put Uralkali Haas F1 Esports drivers Cedric Thomé and Matthijs van Erven through their paces. 

In qualifying, both drivers set their best times on Red soft rubber, with Thomé finishing P17 with a time of 1:03.305, while Van Erven agonisingly just missed out on reaching Q2 by only .007 of a second (1:03.227). The weather turned for Q3, and the session became a Mercedes masterclass as the duo of Jarno Opmeer and Dani Moreno locked out the front row in changing conditions.  

The sun was back out for the start of the race, with both drivers choosing to start on Yellow soft tires. Van Erven was able to gain a spot in the opening laps, while Thomé got pushed to the back of the field after taking a hit.

Apart from a defiant overtake on Lap 10 from Van Erven on McLaren Shadow’s Daniel Bereznay, it was a relatively quiet first stint for the Uralkali Haas F1 Esports duo. That was until the rain came. On Lap 12, Van Erven came into the pits from 13th to opt for Green intermediates. The first flurry of drivers reacting to the weather pushed Thomé up to third. While Moreno and Patrik Sipos (Alpine) chose to pit for inters a lap later, the German stayed out for another lap, testing out the conditions, and leading the race momentarily.

Ultimately, it was an optimistic call as those behind him had brought their tires up to temperature and then Thomé started to fall down the order, dropping to 14th when he came into the pitlane.  

The final five laps of the race became a game of cat and mouse for Van Erven, as he stayed within under a second of 10th place man Moreno, unable to clinch his first point of the Esports season as he reached the checkered flag. Thomé crossed the line in 18th.

It was a second successive victory for Jarno Opmeer, with Red Bull Racing’s Frederik Rasmussen and Boroumand (McLaren Shadow) closing out the podium places.

Romain Grosjean, R8G Esports, said: “I am very proud of the work done in the most competitive sim racing series ever. Look at the gap, 20 guys in 0.250 of a second of each other in qualifying. We missed two Q2 sessions by thousands of a second but in the race, we were right there. We are just at the beginning of something big. There is a lot of room for improvement. Congrats to Matthijs, a rookie coming from the Challenger Series, and Cedric and Sam for the big effort they put in.”

Matthijs Van Erven, Uralkali Haas F1 Esports driver, said: “I’m very proud and happy that I’ve made my debut in the Formula 1 Esports Series Pro Championship for Haas. The first two tracks were just not good for us, that’s clear. We didn’t do a good job set-up wise and also in qualifying a mistake cost me a better result in China. The races were better and I showed some potential. In Austria, my pace was very good! A mistake in the last corner of qualfying cost me a Q2 place but in the race I moved up to P11 and showed I’ve got some good pace on this game. It’s only been my first event in this series and after the last race I’m more confident with my pace than I was after Race 1 and 2. I can’t wait to do better in the next event and score points!”

Cedric Thomé, Uralkali Haas F1 Esports driver, said: “Overall, I'm disappointed with how Event 1 went. I think with Bahrain, we knew it was going be tough, but in China we had a really hard time as we went in the wrong direction for set-up. In Austria, I made a mistake on my final run which would've been enough for Q2, but at the end of the day I didn't do a good job leading up to the event. I’m looking forward to the next event and we already have a vision of how to improve, and I'm really excited to get back on track in two weeks!”

Uralkali Haas F1 Esports returns to action for Event 2 (Round 4 – Silverstone, Round 5 – Monza and Round 6 – Spa Francorchamps) on October 27 & 28.


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