Despite some mixed racing fortunes in Round 2 of the 2019 Formula 1™ New Balance eSports Pro Series, Renault Sport Team Vitality continues to challenge in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships.
The team went into the second round, held at London’s GFinity Arena on October 2, in good form after some solid racing in round one on virtual tracks in Bahrain, Shanghai and Baku. A highlight of that round was Dutch Renault Sport Team Vitality driver Jarno Opmeer finishing runner up in the opening race (Bahrain), while teammate Cedric Thomé claimed a point for the team after finishing 10th in race three (Baku).
Round two saw Renault Sport Team Vitality and the other nine teams racing on virtual tracks at Montreal, Spielberg and Silverstone while competing in F1™ 2019, the official F1™ video game developed by Codemasters. Here’s how the day’s events unfolded.
Race 4: Montreal
In the Montreal race, Opmeer and Thomé claimed P2 and P3 qualifying spots and briefly held a 1-2 at the start of the race. Falling rain, however, saw Opmeer tangle with Wlliams’ driver Tino Naukkarinen while taking an early pit, a tangle that saw him damage a rear wing and lose five seconds. Thomé pitted a lap later for intermediates and came out just behind race leaders, Naukkarinen and Red Bull’s Frederick Rasmussen. Opmeer came out of the pits in fifth and began to close in on the leading train, with the pair coming home to finish in third (Thomé) and fifth (Opmeer). A steward’s enquiry gave a dramatic end to the race though: penalties to Naukkarinen and Rasmussen for crossing the white line after exiting the pits lead to the Team Vitality boys claiming a first win and a third step on the podium respectively.
Race 5: Spielberg
After a tough time in qualifying, the pair of Renault Sport Team Vitality drivers did much better in the actual race thanks to a great team strategy. Thomé started in P6 with Opmeer in P9, but an alternative strategy of beginning the race on medium tyres paid off. Both drivers avoided some first lap chaos and went into the top seven before taking P1 and P2 after all the drivers ahead of them started on softs. A late pit for new fresh tyres saw them lose a few places but had great effect back on the track, where the pair cruised through the field to finish in P3 for Opmeer and P4 for Thomé. “That was a championship winning performance,” exclaimed team coach James Doherty after the race.
Race 6: Silverstone
With Thomé feeling uncomfortable for Race 6, the opportunity came to blood third driver, rookie Simon Weigang, whose pace on the track was impressive. In original qualifying the pair sat in P2 and P3 but, with the session almost over, a restart was called due to technical difficulties. After the reset, both drivers struggled to get a clean lap and started the race with Opmeer in P8 and Weigang debuting in P11. Both drivers opted for an alternative strategy which saw them start well, but Opmeer got held over for seven seconds in the pits. That saw him fall to P10 at the finish, while Weigang managed to hang on to the leaders and got in the points with a fantastic P8 in his inaugural race.
The day’s events left Renault Sport Team Vitality in third place in the constructors’ championship, just eight points behind leaders Red Bull, but a huge 37 ahead of SportPesa Racing Point in fourth. In the driver standings, Opmeer lies third on 59 points, with Thomé in sixth on 38.
“Overall it was an extremely positive event for the team, cementing why we are the team to beat when both drivers perform and if luck is on our side,” concluded Doherty. “We need to keep pushing now to secure strong qualifications and gain in consistency.”
Next round: November 6, 2019 (Hockenheim, Spa & Monza)