Ferrari Drivers’ Academy started the opening round of the 2019 F1 New Balance Esports Pro Series on a high with two race wins by David Tonizza, whilst champions Mercedes AMG Petronas Esports and Brendon Leigh kick start their title defence on the back foot.
Tonizza, the first overall pick in this year’s Pro Draft, excelled in the opening races in Bahrain and China, claiming Ferrari’s first win in their first-ever Esports outing. The Italian led rounded off his first round with a third-place in Baku, concluding the first live show with the championship lead.
Frederik Rasmussen claimed the win in Azerbaijan but started the first round on the back foot in Bahrain. The Red Bull Esports driver was involved in an incident with Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Esports’ Daniel Bereznay, who outbroke himself at Turn 4, colliding with Tonizza and spinning as a result. Rasmussen clipped the Hungarian, damaging his front wing and left him out of the point.
But the Dane fought back in the second race at Shanghai to take second behind Tonizza and ahead of SportPesa Racing Point Esports’ Marcel Kiefer. A dominant display from Rasmussen against Williams Esports’ Tino Naukkarinen, who raced only in Baku, to make it back-to-back wins in the Azerbaijan capital, having won last year’s race with Toro Rosso Esports.
Bereznay for Alfa Romeo suffered another blow in China when leading the race, suffering a brake pedal failure on his rig that forced him to retire and enter the live race with zero points to his name. Bereznay’s and Alfa Romeo’s frustrations continue when during qualifying for Azerbaijan, further problems with the Hungarian’s rig came to light. He managed to recover in Baku and left the GFinity Arena with seventh place, collecting six points.
Salih Saltunc in the other Alfa Romeo faced no problems over the round and continued the performances that saw him grab fourth overall last year, by clinching third and fourth, before ending the night in Baku with ninth place. The three-year veteran of the series currently is fourth overall behind Kiefer.
Reigning champion Leigh suffered a poor qualifying in all three races but made up for them in the races by gaining places at the start. But the two-time winner of the series was unable to fight for race wins over the course of the day, leaving sixth overall in the drivers’ standings, 43 points away from leader Tonizza.
Mercedes opted to use Polish gamer Patryk Krutyj instead of their draft selection Daniel Shields for the first round, but Krutyj could only bring home four points in total, leaving Mercedes down in eighth overall in the start of their title defence.
Newcomers in the series shun with the likes of Renault Sport Team Vitality’s Jarno Opmeer performing strongly, clinching second in the first race in Bahrain. He would continue his points scoring with a fifth place in China, putting him fifth ahead of Leigh in the standings.
Team-mate Cedric Thome managed to deliver a good end of the night for Renault by clinching tenth and one point for the team. Haas F1 Esports’ rookies in Floris Wijers and Jan Fehler managed to deliver point finishes for the team over the evening, aiming to help push the team forward after a shaky debut season last year.
Kiefer for Racing Point started the season off well with a fourth and third place in the opening two races at Bahrain and China. In changeable conditions during qualifying for China, the German delivered by setting the second-best time before the track got severely wet. He ended Azerbaijan eight, adding more points on the board as he leaves London third overall. Rookie team-mate Daniele Haddid delivered points finishes with seventh and ninth to help push the team third overall behind Ferrari and Red Bull.
Tonizza leaves the opening round of the 2019 series with the lead ahead of Rasmussen, Keifer, Saltunc, and Opmeer whilst Leigh and Mercedes will have to figure out what to do to bounce back in the next show on October 6th, 2019.
Ferrari with Tonizza’s points leads the teams’ standings ahead of Red Bull, Racing Point and Alfa Romeo. A closely fought squabble between Renault, McLaren Shadow, Williams, and Mercedes with the pair only separated by three points. Haas and Toro Rosso Esports round off the teams’ table.