Can you feel it? The anticipation? The nerves? The history waiting to be made?
On Wednesday, the 2022 F1 Esports Series Pro Championship, presented by Aramco, finally gets under way! There are plenty of new faces in the mix, and incredible racing just waiting to happen.
Defending champion Jarno Opmeer will be looking to make it three in-a-row, but there are 29 other drivers queued up behind him waiting to steal the honours. Plenty of time has passed since our Grand Final in 2021, so let’s take stock of what’s changed, and what to expect.
A NEW FORMAT
2022 will feature 50% distance races in F1 Esports, bringing extra strategy options into play for the teams and drivers.
We also have more streams and more days of action than ever before, with racing taking place across three days instead of two. Across the Wednesday-Friday of each event, we will see one qualifying and race stream each, allowing us to get the absolute most out of each thrilling race.
Of our 10 official F1 Esports teams, nine have at least one new addition in 2022. Seven brand-new drivers join the action, and 10 drivers have moved teams! Two teams have totally new line-ups compared to this time last year.
Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN F1 Esports Team are one such team, poaching Nicolas Longuet from Alpine, and Dani Bereznay from McLaren Shadow. Bereznay returns to the team with whom he raced in 2019-20, and the pair are joined by Pro Exhibition entrant Tomek Poradzisz.
Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Esports Team’s roster is completely changed too, with Simon Weigang shipping over from Haas. He links up with Manuel Biancolilla, returning after last racing in 2020, and John Evans, another Pro Exhibition star.
Scuderia AlphaTauri Esports bring in ex-McLaren Shadow racer Josh Idowu alongside their duo Sebastian Job and Joni Tormala. Meanwhile, Alpine Esports recruit Pro Exhibition protégé Luke Smith alongside 2021 Alfa driver Filip Presnajder, and Patrik Sipos.
Fabrizio Donoso races in red in 2022, squadding up with champion duo David Tonizza and Brendon Leigh at Scuderia Ferrari Velas. McLaren Shadow poach Lucas Blakeley from Aston Martin, with Bari Boroumand remaining at the team, and Pro Exhibitionist Wilson Hughes making his debut in Papaya.
Jarno Opmeer and Dani Moreno remain at Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Esports, joined by Pro Ex bronze medal man Jake Benham. Red Bull Racing Esports field an un-altered trio of Frede Rasmussen, Marcel Kiefer and Liam Parnell.
Williams Esports keep Alvaro Carreton on for a record fifth season, alongside ex-Aston drivers Shanaka Clay, and Daniele Haddad. And finally at Haas, 2021 driver Matthijs van Erven is joined by debutants Piotr Stahulec, and Thomas Ronhaar, our Pro Exhibition champion.
Our first event takes us to the season opener in Bahrain, where the long straights and heavy braking zones provide some of the best opportunities for wheel-to-wheel racing on the calendar!
The 2021 event here was no exception, with a frantic final-lap battle between Lucas Blakeley, Nicolas Longuet and Alvaro Carreton keeping us guessing right to the flag. Blakeley ultimately prevailed to take his first F1 Esports win, and produce perhaps the best final lap we’ve ever seen in the series!
The Scot is one of three Bahrain winners on the grid, along with David Tonizza (2019) and Jarno Opmeer (2020), who both kicked off championship-winning campaigns with a dub in Sakhir. Though Blakeley couldn’t make the championship stick, but he did place third overall last season. Clearly, winning at the first round is the best possible way to start your championship, so this is a crucial race for momentum
ROUND TWO AT IMOLA
Our second race of the Pro Champs in 2022 is also our second visit to Imola, with the legendary track joining the calendar for the first time in 2021. It’s a tricky little 4.9Km streak, with an immensely powerful DRS slipstream effect on the main straight.
Last year’s race saw Josh Idowu put on an incredible show, taking pole in only his fourth outing of that year’s championship. He led the race going into the final lap, but an off-track excursion and collision when re-joining scuppered any hopes of points. Tonizza, who poked past Idowu on the final lap, took his only victory of the season – his second consecutive win on home soil.
Held much later in the year, our trip to Emilia-Romagna was the first race of the last event. This time around, we’re getting our Imola fix in nice and early, and with lots of slow-speed corners, it’s sure to be a nail-biter.
GOING FOR GOLD AT SILVERSTONE
In the interest of mixing things up, we’re going nice and early for our trip to Silverstone in 2022, capping off the event with one of the fastest tracks on the calendar. Like Bahrain, it’ got plenty of straights, and the high-speed corners will make it a delight to watch.
Silverstone has naturally featured in every iteration of the F1 Esports Series, and we have four different winners on the grid: Leigh (2018), Kiefer (2019), Longuet (2020) and Rasmussen (2021).
With a powerful DRS effect on the Hangar Straight, which leads to the final few corners of the track, it’s no surprise the win was decided on the very last lap in 2021. Rasmussen left it late to pounce, but he powered past Dani Moreno to take his first victory of the season, with Blakeley tucking up behind both of them to almost steal second.
WHOS’S IN FORM?
With so long since our last F1 Esports racing action, it’s hard to put a finger on who’s coming in hot. However, Frede Rasmussen is on an unprecedented podium streak! The Dane finished on the podium in the final seven races of 2021. From his win in Belgium, he went on to finish second in Portugal, the Netherlands and USA, followed by a brace of P3s in Imola and Mexico, and finished with victory in Brazil. However, he has never been in the top three in Bahrain before. Maybe all that will change this year…
Rasmussen was one of three drivers to score in every round in 2021, the others being Blakeley, and eventual champion Opmeer. The defending champ has nine wins in F1 Esports, and needs just one more to tie all-time leader in that department, Rasmussen.
On the subject of insane streaks, Alvaro Carreton’s fifth year with Williams Esports is about to commence. The Spanish racer has completed every single race since 2018 with the team, save for a trip to Monza in 2019, where he sat out. He began last year strongly with a podium in Bahrain, but fell away, only scoring another 17 points all season.
And let’s not forget our Pro Exhibition cohort. The three-day event at Silverstone unearthed some new talents, with Thomas Ronhaar top of the pile. It will be interesting to see how many of the seven Pro Ex-signed drivers gets an outing in the first event!
Our first stream kicks off on Wednesday September 14, with Qualifying commencing at 15:30 BST (14:30 UTC) on Twitch, YouTube and Huya. It’s then a short wait for the race, which gets going from 19:30 BST (19:30 UTC) on Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, Huya, and with select TV broadcasters including Sky Sports F1, Viaplay, and ESPN.
We can’t wait to get racing!
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