2021 F1 Esports Series Pro Championship: Event 4 round-upDecember 16, 2021
While the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship wrapped-up in spectacular fashion last weekend, there was still one championship to be decided before the winter break and with six contenders all vying to become the 2021 F1 Esports Series Pro Championship winners, it was bound to be full of action.
To start the final event of the year, the field travelled to one of the most historic tracks on the calendar – Imola, Italy, for the first time in F1 Esports Series history. Uralkali Haas F1 Esports driver Cedric Thomé exited qualifying after the Q1 session, classifying P19 with a time of 1:13.866. Matthijs van Erven put in a banker lap of 1:13.985 after his first run and improved further to go through to Q2 after finishing the opening session in 14th.
It’s not called the most competitive line-up in Esports for nothing, with the Q2 session showing the calibre of the grid, with van Erven missing out on Q3 by .010 to line-up on the grid in P11. Josh Idowu (McLaren Shadow) put it on pole for the first time this season with the quickest lap of 1:13.235, .002 of a second ahead of David Tonizza (FDA Esports Team).
For the race, clear track conditions continued and it was a steady start for both drivers – who started on Yellow medium compounds – with van Erven only losing one position in the opening laps. On Lap 9, Thomé opted for a different strategy from the midfield pack and pitted for Red soft tires, retaining position as he came back out on track. Two laps later and team-mate van Erven followed, exiting the pitlane in 13th. After the rest of the field had pitted, van Erven was in a competitive 9th with Thomé in 10th, although a five-second time penalty thwarted his quest for points.
On Lap 15, van Erven was pushed down to the final points-paying position following a battle with Red Bull Racing Esports driver Marcel Kiefer. It was to get worse for the Dutch driver as he fell victim to a wheel-to-wheel fight between Alvaro Carreton (Williams Esports) and Kiefer, losing a front wing in the pair’s coming together, forcing van Erven into the pits. After a front wing change and a new set Red softs, van Erven came back out in P19.
Bad luck for one was good luck for the other, pushing Thomé to P15 at the checkered flag, with van Erven managing to claw back P16 at the line. David Tonizza took his second win of the season, followed by championship protagonists Jarno Opmeer (Mercedes) and Frederik Rasmussen (Red Bull Racing).
Later that afternoon, the grid tackled the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City for Race 11.
Thomé’s penultimate qualifying session of the year came to an end at the conclusion of Q1 – the opening round of group qualifying, finishing P19 with a fastest lap of 1:13.977. Yet again, van Erven managed to make it into Q2 and placed P15 with a time of 1:13.728. Frederik Rasmussen claimed his second pole position of the season in Q3 with a fastest time of 1:13.275 – the Red Bull Racing Esports title contender qualifying .073 of a second faster than Bari Boroumand (McLaren Shadow) in second and title rival Jarno Opmeer in third.
Both drivers took the start on Yellow medium tires and managed to maintain position throughout the opening stint of the race. On Lap 12, van Erven pitted from 12th to swap to Red softs, coming back onto the track in 20th. One lap later Thomé followed suit from 8th.
For what was looking to be a quiet race for the Uralkali Haas F1 Esports pairing quickly turned when van Erven collided with Fabrizio Donoso (Alpine Esports) pushing him to the back of the field and in need of another pitstop for a new set of tires. Trying to make the best of the situation, the Dutch driver managed to secure fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:14.773 on Lap 23.
After losing out three positions in the final laps of the race, Thomé finished P19 after a time penalty, with van Erven coming home in P20. Up front Jarno Opmeer recorded win number four of the season, ahead of Bari Boroumand (McLaren Shadow) and Frederik Rasmussen in third.
It was blue skies for as far as the eye could see in Sao Paulo for the final day of the 2021 F1 Esports Series Pro Championship, and perfect conditions for a title to be decided. For qualifying, Uralkali Haas F1 Esports drivers Matthijs van Erven and Cedric Thomé started the first of three flying laps on Yellow medium compounds. Van Erven set a quicker time on the first run, ahead of Thomé. For their second and third runs, the pair swapped to soft rubber, looking to improve their times as the track rubbered in.
As ever, the grid was closely packed together and Thomé’s quickest lap of 1:06.389 put him in P17 for the race, with van Erven lining up P19 after a fastest lap of 1:06.458. In the fight for the final pole of the season, Nicholas Longuet (Alpine Esports) beat the charging Red Bull of Kiefer, with a lap time of 1:05.890 for this third pole position of the championship.
Starting on Yellow medium tires, both Uralkali Haas F1 Esports drivers followed the train of cars throughout the opening laps, gaining one position after Daniele Haddad (Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team) came into the pits early. On Lap 11, Thomé pitted for Red softs to come back out in 18th, while van Erven decided to go longer on the medium set, only pitting on Lap 14.
With all eyes on the prize two packs of cars began to bunch together, one looking for the final win of the season and the other fighting for crucial championship points. With Thomé following van Erven, the charge up the field began. First to be dispatched was the Alfa Romeo of Thijmen Schutte, closely followed by Joni Tormala (AlphaTauri). Dani Moreno of Mercedes stopped at the first turn on Lap 21, moving the pair into 10th and 11th.
On the penultimate lap, van Erven shot up the rankings to 7th, and thanks to a time penalty for Longuet, the Dutch driver finished in P6, gaining his first points of the championship. Thomé claimed P9 and also his first points of the season, rounding out Uralkali Haas F1 Esports’ best race of the championship.
After another dominant season, Jarno Opmeer and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports sealed both the drivers’ and teams’ Esports titles. Uralkali Haas F1 Team concludes the 2021 F1 Esports Series Pro Championship with 10 points in the Teams’ Championship.
Matthijs Van Erven, Uralkali Haas F1 Esports driver, said: “Well we saved the best for last - a P6 finish in the last race from 19th on the grid! Event 4 has been my best event. In qualifying, I almost got into Q3 at Imola, and in Mexico I managed a Q2 appearance. In those races it didn’t go as well since I was caught in incidents but the last race Brazil it all worked out perfectly in the race. I’m happy to score points for the team finally!”
Cedric Thomé, Uralkali Haas F1 Esports driver, said: “The season hasn't gone as we wanted it to, but to end the last race with both cars in the points is something we completely deserve to end off the year. Especially due to all the hard work we've put in and all that bad luck we’ve had. I’m so happy for Matthijs to get P6, it was a well-managed race."
Uralkali Haas F1 Esports would like to thank Matthijs, Cedric and Samuel for their continuous work and determination throughout the 2021 F1 Esports Series Pro Championship, as well as the development drivers and team at R8G Esports for their support and knowledge throughout the competition.