Mercedes AMG Petronas Esports captured all wins from Round 2 of the 2018 F1 New Balance Esports Pro Series, but all three races were not without controversy.
Reigning champion Brendon Leigh captured victories in France and Silverstone, but engaged in battles with Toro Rosso Esports’s Frederik Rasmussen that saw the pair make contact in multiple occasions.
The two Toro Rosso’s of Rasmussen and Patrik Holzmann fought with the Mercedes driver at Paul Ricard, battling for the lead of the race. Leigh crossed the line victorious but engaged in contact with Rasmussen in the latter stages of the race, which forced the Danish driver off track.
Leigh was initially handed a penalty in the race which demoted him out of the podium and down to fifth, handing the victory to Holzmann and Toro Rosso with a one-two. But the result changed after when Leigh and Mercedes appeals the decision and won the case, handing the victory back to the reigning champion.
Rasmussen was furious over the decision made by the stewards for what he felt was “dirty driving” by the Mercedes driver.
Silverstone saw Leigh and Hype Energy eForce India’s Fabrizio Donoso Delgado battle for the lead of the race at the early stages, but the Chilean’s battle and lead was short lived after a stop-go penalty was handed when he was found speeding in the pit lane, ending hopes of victory for the Force Indian driver.
Leigh opted to stay out longer in the race and pitted in at the end of lap eight, managing to get ahead of Rasmussen, but the Dane eventually passed Leigh for the lead with DRS down the Wellington straight.
With fresh rubber, Leigh soon regained the ground to Rasmussen, placing an attack at Stove for the lead, which saw the two drivers make contact again but Leigh successfully made the overtake for what would be his fourth win in the championship. Rasmussen finished second place whilst a final lap three-way scrap for the final podium spot saw Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Esports‘ Salih Saltnuc initially claiming third, but a three second penalty allowed Marcel Kiefer take the position.
For the final race of the evening around the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, Daniel Bereznay captured his first win of the series from pole position at Spa-Francorchamps. The Hungarian driver initially lost the lead to Rasmussen on the opening lap on the run towards Les Combes, but the Mercedes driver fought back from the Toro Rosso to retake the lead.
Joni Tormala in the Red Bull Racing Esports team had a fairly quiet evening until a strong effort around the Belgium circuit saw him amongst a four car battle for second between Donoso Delgado, Leigh and Rasmussen. Multiple track extension warnings from Donoso Delgado handed him a three second penalty, ending his ambitions for a podium finish.
On the final lap, Tormala passed Donoso Delgado at Les Combes in a thrilling move to promote him up to second, whilst Leigh and Rasmussen squabbled for what would be third place, with the Dane attempting a final move at the Bus Stop chicane around the outside of the Mercedes driver, beating him by 0.025 seconds to the line. The Sauber of Salih Saltunc managed to finish neck and neck with Leigh, passing him on the line for fourth with the Mercedes ending in fifth.
McLaren Shadow endured a difficult day with Bono Huis struggling to find pace throughout the round, whilst team-mate Enzo Bonito suffered multiple retirements during the races relating to technical issues with his PC setup.
The series has one round left taking place on the 16th and 17th November, with four races to take place with the final race at Abu Dhabi a 50% race special with double points rewarded.