The 2022 F1 Esports season is halfway through and with it, new talents are emerging as favorites. ATRL’s Immy Cousins takes a look at the rise of the rookies.
When you think of F1 Esports, there are probably some names that first come to mind; Jarno Opmeer, Brendon Leigh and Marcel Kiefer, to name a few. Jarno and Brendon are both former drivers champions, whilst Marcel is known for his incredible teamwork as part of the Oracle Red Bull Racing Esports team. Having reached the halfway point of the 2022 F1 Esports season, it has become clear that maybe a new generation of young competitors are taking the spotlight that once shone on the drivers previously mentioned.
The series has been running since 2018, with 5 seasons completed to date. The results of those seasons produced 3 different drivers champions; Jarno and Brendon both claiming two titles each, and Leigh’s current teammate David Tonizza taking the 5th title. Opmeer and Leigh’s previous outstanding performances are still yet to go unmentioned in the 6 events that have happened so far this season and what could be perceived as Tonizza’s downfall since his championship-winning season. But is he the only one who’s facing a decline this season?
Many have been astounded by the performance of the young rookie Thomas Ronhaar who Haas signed up following his success in this year’s Pro Exhibition. Ronhaar currently holds P3 in the championship behind two title contender favourites, McLaren Shadow’s Lucas Blakeley and Oracle Red Bull Racing’s Frede Rasmussen. The Haas driver is 18 points ahead of Opmeer in P4 after taking two race wins in rounds 4 and 5. Whilst we still have half the season to go, Ronhaar seems a strong contender for the title alongside Rasmussen and Blakeley, and with Opmeer not having quite the start to the season he would have hoped for, it seems it may be time for the next generation of champions.
As with all sports, whether virtual or not, there is always a turnover of talent as others outgrow the sport and compete beyond their prime, so whilst F1 Esports could be considered to still be in its early days, it seems there is a new cycle of drivers on the way in pushing the likes of Opmeer, Leigh and Kiefer down the order. Kiefer may be another that has yet to claim the title he so desperately wants but with results worsening since his remarkable 2020 season working alongside Rasmussen, it doesn’t seem like he’s got the fight left to compete with those currently leading the championship.
Lucas and Frede might not be at the rookie level that Ronhaar is and, therefore, cannot be considered part of the new generation of drivers, but they are still two drivers with firm championship hopes that have been building for a few seasons now. Rasmussen has had more poles and race wins than any other driver that has competed in the series but is still yet to claim the championship. However, is that any match for the raw talent and skill Ronhaar has displayed in the first half of the season?
The battle of raw skill vs experienced driver between the current top 3 will be one to watch closely in the final 6 rounds. Many will be rooting for Blakeley or Rasmussen to take their first title; however, Ronhaar is becoming a new fan favourite after his impressive performance. If Ronhaar succeeds this season, it will only show it might be time for some younger talent to join the roster and potentially follow in the footsteps of F1 Esports graduate Cem Bölükbaşı who rose to compete in F2 this season or seize the same opportunities which saw Blakeley and Opmeer compete against Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher in Race of Champions earlier this year. Whilst Blakeley, Rasmussen and Opmeer still have a lot of cards to play, they’ve got rising new talent to fight this season.
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