Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen returned to winning ways as Jarno Opmeer crossed the line first in a thrilling F1 Esports Pro Exhibition race around the streets of Baku. The Dutchman won on his debut for the team, sending a strong signal about the team’s strength and depth ahead of this year’s F1 Esports Series.
In the Formula One Virtual GP, Thibaut Courtois was left flying the team’s colours after another game freeze forced Antonio Giovinazzi out of the race before the lights were even off. The Italian has endured a torrid time lately, with technical issues with the software forcing him out from several races.
Thibaut had a strong performance, covering from a start-line clash to battle with Pierre Gasly for large parts of the race. The Belgian goalkeeper eventually crossed the line in P12.
In the Pro Exhibition race, the new team line-up of Daniel Bereznay and Jarno Opmeer was the subject of much expectation – and it duly delivered. The pair claimed P2 (Opmeer) and P8 (Bereznay) on the grid, setting themselves up for what promised to be an exciting race. Unfortunately for the Hungarian ace, a hit from behind at turn two and some more misfortunes – not of his own making – meant he spent the rest of the evening catching up with the pack before finishing 13th.
At the front, however, Jarno engaged in a battle for the lead against Lucas Blakeley and David Tonizza. After stalking Blakeley for most of the closing stages, Opmeer made a decisive move for the lead on the last lap and put some distance between himself and the pursuing duo to win his debut race for Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen.
A strong result in a challenging venue, and the gauntlet thrown to the rest of the field for the official season later in the year. We sure are looking forward to the final Exhibition Race next week in Canada…
Antonio Giovinazzi (DNS, Virtual GP): “Once again, it is extremely disappointing to be let down by the game after a good performance in qualifying. I think we could have had some fun in the race, it was an unpredictable one and we could have been in the mix – but we will never know. In any case, in less than a month we will be back competing in real life and we will hopefully have a bit more luck than what we had in the esports world.”
Daniel Bereznay (P13, Pro Exhibition Race): “It was not a lucky race for me, but I am happy for Jarno and the team. I was P8 in qualifying, it could have been better but I was not worried, as the track in Baku offers plenty of chances to overtake. I had a good start, made up two places before the first corner but on the approach to turn two I got a massive hit from behind and had to take the escape route. I lost 15 seconds and was at the back of the field. I then caught up with the pack, but found a crash blocking the road and that cost me a front wing. By the time I was back running, I could make up some places up to 13th. All these circumstances were not in my hands so I cannot be too disappointed. I did all I can and I can just be happy for the team result we had.”
Jarno Opmeer (P1, Pro Exhibition Race): “I am really happy with the result, especially to make my debut for the team like this. I am quite surprised at the same time, as I did really poorly on this track last year. I have made big steps since then and it was really nice to be able to show that in the race. There are still a few points I have to improve, but I have time to get better before the Pro Series starts again.”