Alpine Esports’ 2021 F1 Esports Series Pro-Championship got off to a strong start with two podiums in the three opening rounds in Bahrain, China and Austria. A second-place finish each for Nicolas Longuet and Fabrizio Donoso cemented Alpine’s fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship.
The series started well for Alpine Esports as Nicolas Longuet delivered a stunning performance to take pole position for race one, repeating his feat from last year’s race. Fabrizio missed out on Q3 by a couple of thousandths of a second and started P12.
During the 20-lap race, a good strategy gave Fabrizio the opportunity to fight for points, while Nicolas was engaged in an epic battle with Aston Martin Racing driver and eventual race winner Lucas Blakeley until the very last lap. Bahrain eventually secured a double points finish, with a second place for Nicolas and a tenth place for Fabrizio.
The second race in China was more challenging, with heavy rain at the start and drying conditions throughout. Fabrizio started P4 but Nicolas could only muster P15 on the grid. Both drivers gained two positions after the first two corners, however Nicolas made an error at the end of sector 1 after colliding with an opponent and damaging his car. The race was over for him, so he played the team game to anticipate intermediates and soft tyres later in the race. After a fantastic start Fabrizio continued strongly with very well-timed strategic calls. Five laps before the end he elected for soft tyres and took the lead from Jarno Opmeer. The Mercedes driver had more ERS left and moved back ahead to claim the win, just one second in front of Fabrizio. It marked the best result of the Chilean driver’s career in the F1 Esports Series and a statement of intent after a difficult 2020 campaign. Nicolas also earned the fastest lap of the race.
The last race in Austria, as in China, was all about the weather conditions. Even more unpredictable this time, Nicolas and Patrik Sipos, who made his debut at the Red Bull Ring, got caught in Q2 by the rain coming at the worst possible time. Nicolas qualified in P11 and Patrik in P15.
The race was again held in mixed conditions, this time starting on dry and switching to intermediate conditions mid-race. Both drivers got a clean start, however with the rain coming and the game not permitting to double stack drivers in the pitlane, one car had to be sacrificed and pit one lap later. As a consequence, Patrik dropped down to P17 but Nicolas was promoted to P9 where he finished the race.
Alpine Esports occupies fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship, with Nicolas Longuet in P6 with 20 points, Fabrizio Donoso in P7 with 19 points and Patrik Sipos in P23 with 0 points.
Nicolas Longuet: “I am mostly disappointed in myself for what happened this event. I feel like I should have done more, and it just shows that you can’t take anything for granted this year. I clearly have to work even harder for the next event because the goal is still to win the championships no matter what.”
Fabrizio Donoso: “I feel like personally I had a good first event, round 1 was kind of a wake-up call and I knew I had it in myself to bounce back in China ,which I did and I am super happy with my performance and the team. After almost a year without scoring I’m now sitting in P7 in the drivers’ championship with one less race than the six ahead of me so I will take it, but we need both cars to be up there from Event 2 and we’ll be in the fight for the championship.”
Patrik Sipos: “The event was looking really good until Austria where we qualified P15 and P14 due to the weather. It could’ve been so much better but we can’t really do anything about it and we need to move on and work harder than ever.”
Richard Arnaud (Manager): "That’s an eventful first event! We were close to win the first two races thanks to Nicolas and Fabrizio. This year it seems that the weather is going to play a big part in the final result. We managed it perfectly in China but got trapped in Austria. Patrik also showed good potential in Austria in the race. Now we need to constantly have the two cars in Q3 and in the points if we want to fight back at the front. Eyes already on event 2 now."