Racing Point Off to a Flying Start in the F1 Esports Pro Series

12 September 2019  |  Ravenol Marketing

SportPesa Racing Point Esports Team driver Marcel Kiefer had 3 points finish, including a podium, at the 2019 F1 Esports Pro Series 1st event

Our F1 Technical Partners SportPesa Racing Point’s F1 Esports Team had a great night at the first event in this year’s F1 Esports Pro Series, with points finishes in all three races and a podium for Marcel Kiefer in the second race.

The 2019 F1 Esports Pro Series was held at the Gfiniti Esports Arena in London. Qualifying and racing took part throughout the day, with the final race being streamed live as part of the programme broadcast. Although figures for this year haven’t been announced yet, last year’s events were watched by a record 5.5 million viewers, with figures expected to be even higher this year with the arrival of F1 favourite Ferrari into the Eracing side of the sport.

Also new for 2019 was tactical calls and pit stops being decided by the teams, with strategists working behind the scenes on data and radio calls going out to the drivers, just as with on-track racing.

This year, Racing Point retain last year’s driver Marcel Kiefer, a steady German national who showed real promise last year with regular points and podium finishes. Joining him are Daniele Haddad, an Italian driver who has performed strongly in other Eracing series, and Scottish driver Lucas Blakeley, who was chosen by the team at the F1 Esports Pro Draft which took place earlier in the year. For the first F1 Esports event, Marcel and Dani were selected to represent the team. 

Race 1

The first race of the 2019 F1 Esports season was set in Bahrain, under the setting evening sun. Marcel qualified in P6, with teammate Dani a few rows behind in P9. Dani got a good start and was straight past McLaren’s Bono Huis, who later managed to get the place back. Meanwhile Marcel was right up behind Alfa Romeo’s Salih Saltunc and by the end of Lap 2 he was ahead.

Up front the new kids on the block, Ferrari, were surprising everyone with driver David Tonizza’s pace, in 2nd behind Alfa Romeo’s new signing Daniel Bereznay, who moved to the team from Mercedes. His former teammate meanwhile, two-times champion Brendon Leigh, was having a much tougher time this year, qualifying in 10th, although by the end of Lap 2 he was up into 6th.

On Lap 6 there was drama out at the front as Tonizza overtook Bereznay for the lead, only for the Alfa Romeo driver to lock up and crash into the side of the Ferrari on the hairpin trying to get it back. The Italian escaped mostly unscathed, whilst Bereznay spun and dropped down to 7th. Meanwhile, moving up through the pack was Marcel, getting past Renault driver Jarno Opmeer and hot onto the tail of Red Bull’s Frederik Rasmussen, later passing him to take 3rd.

The Racing Point drivers came in for their pits, with Marcel coming back out in 11th, having been jumped by Saltunc, but after the remaining teams came in for theirs, he was back up into 4th, with teammate Dani still only a couple of places behind, running comfortably inside the points in 7th.

Marcel was ahead of Leigh after his pitstop, but soon had the Champion on his gearbox, trying to get past. Marcel locked up and Leigh saw his chance, but was unable to get the move done before the next corner.

In the closing stages of the race, Tonizza finally pulled out of DRS range of Opmeer. Behind them, Marcel was still being challenged by Leigh, but was also putting pressure on Saltunc, trying to pass him for 3rd. But he was unable to make a move before the chequered flag, coming home in 4th. Dani was still in 7th, meaning a double points finish and a really good start for the Racing Point team.

Race 2

Race 2 was set in China, where qualifying took place in mixed conditions, leading to some faster drivers starting out of place. Bereznay took pole, with Marcel lining up alongside him in P2. Dani was unfortunately one of the drivers who was caught out in wet conditions and started towards the back in P18.

Marcel kept tight to the back of Bereznay going round the 1st corner, but was challenged round the outside by Saltunc and dropped to 3rd. Saltunc then continued to put pressure on race leader Bereznay, eventually getting past on Lap 3. Bereznay was then pitted, presumably to stop the Alfa Romeo teammates from fighting against each other. Marcel was quick to close the gap to Saltunc and managed to get back past him and into the lead on Lap 4, before he too was called into the pits.

Marcel came back out in 12th, behind Tonizza who had managed to undercut him. The undercut continued to work well in China due to the long straight, and many teams were caught out by this, including Mercedes and Brendon Leigh, who were undercut by McLaren with Huis. Nevertheless, Marcel kept it tight behind Tonizza, who was already fighting with Bereznay for net lead of the race. Tonizza launched a challenge down the inside of the hairpin, similar to Bereznay’s plunge in Race 1, and again everything seemed to go wrong for the Alfa Romeo driver. Announcing brake issues, caused by a fault with his simulator pedals, he was forced to slow down and eventually pull into the pits to retire.

Meanwhile further up, Racing Point’s other driver Dani was now in 4th, trying a long stint to make up some places. Eventually he pitted and dropped down to 14th. Teammate Marcel meanwhile was passed by Rasmussen and dropped down to 5th. Then as the rest of the drivers ahead pitted, Tonizza once again resumed the lead, with Rasmussen behind him, followed closely by Marcel.

Rasmussen launched a massive challenge on Tonizza over the last few laps of the race, with Marcel also in contention should either of them make a mistake. But the Italian newcomer looked nothing but comfortable up front, easily fending off Rasmussen to take his second win of the evening, with Marcel rounding off the podium positions.

Dani had also had a great drive, working his way back up from 14th following his pit stop to 10th, with another well deserved point for himself, and another double points finish for Racing Point.

Race 3

The final race of the evening was set in Baku, Azerbaijan, on the city’s street circuit, infamous for it’s tight and twisting old-town sections, straight off the back of wide and fast stretches. The Racing Point drivers had both struggled in qualifying, with Marcel starting in P12 ahead of Dani in P15. On pole was Rasmussen, lining up ahead of the two Williams drivers Alvaro Carreton and Tino Naukkarinen. But Carreton didn’t get the best of starts, losing out to teammate Naukkarinen and the closely following Tonizza. Neither did the two Racing Point drivers, with both dropping a couple of places on the opening lap.

The pace of the two front runners was clearly ahead of those following, and very soon they were out of DRS range from Tonizza, as he concentrated on keeping Carreton behind him. But the previous race winner was off the pace in Baku and Carreton took 3rd a lap later. The Ferrari-Williams battle even went into the pits, with Carreton just staying ahead, but on fresh tyres, Tonizza managed to come back and take 11th from him. Meanwhile the race leaders had also both pitted, leaving Marcel up in 3rd and Dani in 8th. Rasmussen came back out ahead of Naukkarinen and soon made his way up into 3rd, leaving the Williams driver back in 7th.

Marcel came into the pits and rejoined the race down in 15th. Teammate Dani stayed out for a bit, but also pitted once he was taken by Naukkarinen, coming back out in 16th. The other drivers pitting meanwhile had elevated Marcel back up to 11th, with a fighting chance of getting back into the points. A lap later he had done it, squeezing past Opmeer’s Renault to take 10th.

Next on Marcel’s list was Opmeer’s teammate Cedric Thome, over a second ahead, but by the end of Lap 11 he was within DRS range of his fellow German. He breezed past him on Lap 12 to take 9th, then went on to take 8th from Mercedes’ Patryk Krutyj.

Further back Dani managed to get past Toro Rosso’s Cem Bolukbasi. He then came up behind the struggling Opmeer and took him for 13th. Still pushing hard, on the last lap he also managed to overtake Thome to come home in 12th

Up at the front Rasmussen was still leading from Naukkarinen. Tonizza was still battling with Carreton, juggling places on the last lap before Carreton made a last ditch attempt for 2nd, launching his car along the home straight alongside Naukkarinen. He just about managed to get past him, but unfortunately his efforts were in vain, due to an earlier 5 second penalty he had received for speeding in the pit lane. He dropped down to 6th, so no change for either of the Racing Point drivers, but it did elevate previous race winner Tonizza to another podium. So a great night for the new Ferrari team.

After all three races, Racing Point are now 3rd in the Teams’ Championship, and Marcel is also 3rd in the Drivers’ Championship, after finishing inside the points in all 3 races – a very promising start for the team!

The next event takes place on Wednesday the 2nd of October, so we will rejoin you then.