There are three more rounds – nine races – between now and December. In this first two-day event that finished yesterday, the ten official F1 Esports teams tackled rounds in Bahrain, Vietnam and China. We have a brand new driver line-up this year, the Finn Joni Törmälä and Italy’s Manuel Biancolilla. For this round, Germany’s Patrik Holzmann was on the “subs bench.” After these first three virtual races, we are fifth in the Teams’ Championship.

Round 1: Bahrain (20 laps)
Joni Törmälä: Pos. 4th – Manuel Biancolilla: Pos. 15th

Joni qualified a brilliant fourth and then got a great start to take the lead, overtaking Bereznay (Alfa Romeo,) Kiefer (Red Bull Racing) and pole man Longuet (Renault.) Manuel Biancolilla also got away well, moving immediately from 19th on the grid to 16th. After Joni lost the lead, he made a very early pit stop to fit Medium tyres and in the short term, the move paid off, as he undercut several cars. However, towards the end he had to fend off drivers on fresher, softer rubber. He was still second on lap 14 but was powerless to defend in the DRS zone and was passed by the two Alfa Romeos of Dutchman Opmeer and Hungarian Bereznay and Germany’s Marcel Kiefer in the Red Bull Racing who took the top three places, leaving Törmälä in an excellent fourth, a great start to the season. Unfortunately, our Italian driver Manuel Biancolilla had to settle for fifteenth.

Round 2: Vietnam (19 laps)
Joni Törmälä: Pos. 9th – Manuel Biancolilla: Pos. 14th

Given that the very first real Vietnam Grand Prix had to be cancelled earlier this year because of Covid-19, this virtual race on the streets of Hanoi was eagerly awaited. It was a breath-taking spectacle between the barriers with plenty of action and overtaking moves. Joni did not get such a good start this time and lost three places, going from eighth to eleventh, to find himself just ahead of his Sicilian team-mate, who had started P11 and dropped to twelfth. They stayed in formation for much of the race, but dropped to P13 and P14. The ran the same strategy too, taking on softer tyres than those ahead of them at the pit stop and began to overtake cars and head for the points. It worked for Joni who finished ninth, but Manuel was unable to score, finishing 15th. Ferrari’s Tonizza was the winner after a close fight with Longuet in the Renault, with Opmeer third for Alfa Romeo.

Round 3: China (20 laps)
Joni Törmälä: Pos. 7th – Manuel Biancolilla: Pos. 18th

The third round of the virtual F1 season took place on the Shanghai International Circuit. Once again, pole went to Alfa Romeo’s Opmeer. Joni Törmälä got through to Q3 and was ninth on the grid, while Manuel Biancolilla started from the penultimate slot after a difficult qualifying. When the lights went out, both our drivers made up places, so that by the end of the opening lap Törmälä was already seventh and Biancolilla fourteenth. On lap 2, Joni made up two places when the Ferrari pair of Bonito and Tonizza had a connection problem and had to retire. Making the most of being on softer tyres than those around him, Törmälä caught and passed Opmeer to go fourth. The Finn pitted at the end of lap 5 to take on Medium tyres but then found himself in traffic. With the run of pit stops complete, Joni was again fifth but was overtaken by Rasmussen (Red Bull Racing) e Blakeley (Racing Point) who were on softer tyres. At the end of the 20 lap race, Opmeer (Alfa Romeo) was first past the flag, followed by Kiefer (Red Bull Racing) and  Bereznay (Alfa Romeo.). Törmälä finished seventh, while Biancolilla had to settle for 18th, mainly due to two penalties and an unfortunate collision with a Racing Point and a Haas.

Joni Törmälä:

“I’d say I produced quite a solid performance for this first event. In Bahrain I qualified P4, very close to the pole time, which was satisfying. I was leading for the first few laps and then dropped to P2. After that, those on the Soft tyres caught up as expected and I finished P4, which is a good result, meaning I picked up plenty of points. The new Hanoi track was very tough but I was I made it to Q3 again in P9. In the race, my strategy didn’t work as I went on Mediums, while most went for Softs so I couldn’t keep up and then lost time in the pit stops. But I finished P9 for two more points. I qualified ninth again for China with a messy lap. In the race, everything went reasonably well, but I was a bit unlucky not to get in the DRS train. All the same, I finished seventh bringing the team another 6 points. Now I’m looking forward to the second event as the tracks there should suit me and we can aim for even better results.”

Manuel Biancolilla:

I didn’t get the start to the season I was hoping for. My qualifying didn’t reflect my actual pace and I will work hard on improving that for the future. However, the Bahrain race went well, as I moved up from 19th to P12 but got moved back to P15 with a penalty. In China I was also trying to move up the order from the back of the grid, but I picked up a couple of penalties and then had a collision with a Racing Point and a Haas that damaged my front wing. After that my race was pretty much over.”