Hype Energy F1 Leagues – PC F1 – Round 2 Bahrain

We were served with another terrific league race under the lights of the Bahrain International Circuit for Round 2 of Apex Online Racing’s Hype Energy F1 Leagues’ top PC split. In fact, Bahrain never seems to fail in that regard, constantly providing the spectators with action-packed races filled with overtakes and drama. Naturally, this time proved no different.

A slightly weakened field entered the Bahrain Grand Prix as four drivers were unable to attend; Filip “Smash” Presnajder (Sauber) missing a second consecutive race as well as the trio of Fabrizio Donoso (Force India), Dani “FormulaDani” Bereznay (Mercedes) & Mads Sorensen (Force India), all away in preparation of the F1 Esports event. A sizable opportunity was therefore presenting itself for the other 16 competitors, who would undoubtedly be thinking about maximizing their championship points haul with such quality drivers missing.

Bahrain is not randomly one of the most exciting racing destination on the calendar. It features plenty of overtaking opportunities with its wide track & long straights but also several harsh traction zones in corner exits, allowing the drivers to display both their raw pace and technical skills level. Probably the trickiest part of the Grand Prix, however, is the tyre strategy involved. The drivers who can best manage their tyre wear to complete the preferred one-stop strategy will be rewarded as Bahrain cruelly punishes those who can’t. That is why qualifying typically holds a few surprises with drivers splitting the strategies, mixing up the grid.

Track: Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain
Laps: 29
Tyres: Supersofts, Softs, Mediums

Bahrain International Circuit

Qualifying

It’s the Renaults of David Tonizza and Daniele Haddad, last week’s winner, who first set the top sheet reference times in the early session with rapid laps of 1:25.761 & 1:25.805 on the red-walled Supersofts, the softest compound available for Round 2. Already, multiple drivers were aborting flying laps strategically to avoid putting themselves in the top 10, but Mercedes’ Gergo “G3RRX” Bodi was not one of those, snatching provisional pole away from Tonizza with a 1:25.752, the Red Bulls of Aleksi “NonRunner” Korsman and Chris “Ycoms” Holstein not too far behind.

The mid-sessions saw the Renault teammates improve on their previous times and regain a provisional front row lock-out with Tonizza slicing his lap down to a 1:25.638 followed by Haddad with an even better 1:25.591. Bodi’s answer this time around wasn’t good enough to get in front, 0.024s slower than P2 Tonizza. Once again, the stage was set for the PC F1 boys to demonstrate their rapidity in the session’s last minutes pole shootout.

The final runs of qualifying ended up being more eventful than one would have predicted. First, Toro Rosso driver Ross Woodford took provisional pole with a 1:25.578, which stood atop for a little while until the man of the hour, David Tonizza, completed a stunning 1:25.383 lap time which would not even be sniffed. Haddad and Bodi both failed to improve in their last run and actually met on track on the straight that leads to the last corner in a somewhat chaotic moment. Williams’ Tino Naukkarinen once again struggled to find his footing throughout the session, this time failing to register a single meaningful lap on the yellow Softs, putting him dead last on the grid in sixteenth position.

The front row for the race: David Tonizza (1:25.383) alongside Renault’s bubble buster Ross Woodford (1:25.578). Following them, the duo of Daniele Haddad (1:25.591) and Chris Holstein, a solid lap (1:25.617) for the Red Bull driver even though he would admit afterwards that he was not a 100% satisfied with the effort! On row number three were lone Mercedes representative Gergo Bodi (1:25.662) and Ferrari’s Szabo-Konyi “Foton” Bence (1:25.797). Holstein’s teammate Korsman was able to secure a place on row four in P7 with a 1:25.815 to be flanked by the Toro Rosso of Railgone (1:25.845). Rounding up the top 10 were the Haas pair of Marc Schlüter (1:25.870) and Marek Schinz (1:25.943). The four drivers to finish P11 to P14 all qualified on the Soft tyres for better race strategy flexibility, notably Alvaro Carreton for Williams.

Race

As had been the case for race number 1 in Melbourne last week, the drivers on the grid below the top 10 all chose a harder compound of tyre to start on. Five chose the Softs and only one, McLaren’s Jan Fehler, the white Mediums. Daniele Haddad put himself in an impossible situation when he jumped the start, a rare occurrence, earning himself a drive-through penalty a split second before the lights had even gone out, which he would serve on that opening lap. Otherwise, it was a relatively clean start in Bahrain, free of any major incident. Tonizza remained in the lead with Woodford on his tail, immediately followed by Bodi and the Red Bull pair of Holstein & Korsman with Carreton not too far behind in P6, rocketing up from P11. Three drivers pitted on the opening lap due to front wing damage; McLaren driver Chro, Naukkarinen and Schlüter, very much compromising their hopes of a strong result.

It did not take long for Carreton to add to his statement launch, overtaking Korsman’s Red Bull in Turn One on Lap Three for P5 despite being on the harder, less grippy yellow rubber. From there it took him another couple laps to catch up to the other Red Bull of Holstein, forming a four-car train led by a struggling-for-pace Ross Woodford in second position. It was confirmed much later in the broadcast that Woodford had minor front wing damage to his Toro Rosso but one wonders if it didn’t in fact happen in the first laps seeing how he was struggling to keep up to the pace of Tonizza ahead and, well, his closest opponents who started picking him off one by one on Lap Six starting with Gergo “G3RRX” Bodi in Turn One, then “Ycoms” Holstein a lap later in Turn Four. That sequence gave way to Alvaro Carreton as well who took advantage of that opening and muscled past Woodford in the esses of Turns Five & Six and later benefited from Holstein going wide in Turn 13. Carreton’s pace & fortunes had already seen him move up to third place within seven laps, before the pit window had even opened, whereas Woodford had fallen from high up in second down to fifth, visibly struggling for grip compared to his rivals.

Unable to take it any longer and eager to get rid of his worn set of Supersofts, Woodford brought his Toro Rosso in on Lap Seven for a fresh set of Mediums, effectively opening the Supersoft runners pit window. Positions one, two and four – Tonizza, Bodi and Holstein, respectively – all pitted on the following lap to install Medium tyres, leaving Williams’ Alvaro Carreton in the lead. From third position, “NonRunner” Korsman pitted on Lap Nine along with “Marek” Schinz and “Foton” Bence who were running in sixth and eighth at the time, all setting up for a 20-lap long final stint on the Mediums. Korsman came out a second behind Woodford in P14.

Carreton, from one pit window to another, decided that Lap 10 was the ideal time to complete his one-stop strategy in order to minimize the impact of the undercut his opponents from the first stint would have on him. As a matter of fact, it was quite the opposite; when the Williams of Carreton rejoined the circuit, it was just over two seconds behind the Renault of Tonizza, therefore in net P2, meaning he had actually overcut Gergo Bodi! The lead kept changing with Soft-shod drivers now pitting in quick succession. On Lap 11, Ferrari’s Manuel “Whitelilac” Biancolilla and Sauber’s Slickk dived into pit lane from P1 and P3 respectively, surrendering the race lead to McLaren’s Chro who would in turn pit on Lap 12, closing the Softs pitting phase. That whole shuffling left at the front the sole driver to start on the hardest compound available: Jan Fehler. For a few laps, all 16 drivers on track were on the same tyres (Mediums) until Fehler boxed on Lap 16 for yellow-walled Softs, setting up for a charge through the field on his second stint after having endured the difficult combo of a heavily fuelled car with the slowest rubbers, a strategy he had planned on adopting even though he would mention in his post-race interview that he was hoping for a better grid-slot than what his qualifying effort had produced.

Renault’s pole sitter David Tonizza went at it hard on his final stint, claiming the lead back once Fehler finally pitted, with Carreton 2.3s back. It looked like he was cruising towards an easy win but as the race closed in to its end, it became clear that Tonizza had overdone his tyres. With only a couple of laps left, Tonizza’s telemetry showed that his boots had virtually nothing left in them, threatening to explode any minute, forcing him into a very defensive pace. Carreton closed the gap on the Renault quickly once it went into protection mode and went down its inside in Turn Eight on the last lap of the race for the first lead change since Lap 16. However, that move would turn out to be insignificant due to the Williams’ accumulation of six seconds of time penalties. Were both drivers aware of each others situation? Hard to tell exactly… but the bottom line was what the classification read at the end : David Tonizza P1, making it two in a row for Renault in the first two rounds of Season 16. It was certain disappointment for Alvaro Carreton in P3, with himself only to blame, although he showcased a monster performance from P11 on the grid.

Chris “Ycoms” Holstein also profited from others’ penalties by inheriting second place for Red Bull despite finishing fourth on track, over a second behind McLaren’s Chro who had made the move on him early on Lap 24. However, the main help for Holstein came from Gergo Bodi & Manuel Biancolilla’s unfortunate tangle in Turns 1 & 2 on Lap 23, allowing the Red Bull thru after marginally avoiding contact. Chro showed up big time in Bahrain after Australia’s disappointment, picking up 10 points with fifth place, two down from what he could’ve had, had he not picked up a pair of time penalties. Grabbing P4 was Sauber driver Slickk who will certainly take that result coming in from P13 on the grid. Mercedes’ Gergo Bodi will feel like he has left a lot on the table after his promising start to the race comfortably running in second, but his moment late in the race when the Ferrari of Biancolilla dived inside aggressively down in Turn One set him back significantly, the latter getting it even worse with seventh position.

Aleksi “NonRunner” Korsman, Holstein’s teammate, kept his grid position of seventh, bringing home six points to round up a solid outing for Red Bull. Speaking of solid outings, Jan Fehler had an outstanding one pace-wise, taking the checkered the flag in sixth on the alternate strategy (Medium to Soft), but he too was afflicted by time penalties, sending him down to ninth in the classification. After another promising qualifying, setting himself up for a strong follow-up to his maiden win in Melbourne, Daniele Haddad could not salvage more than the final point finish of P10, and it was thanks to Woodford’s single 3-second time penalty which he picked up in his landslide from P2 on the grid.

We are now looking forward to the upcoming Chinese Grand Prix, third round of Season 16. Will we see the first wet weather racing in Shanghai as so often is the case over there? Tune in on Sunday the 14th to find out!

Written by Kevin “saKuuu” Turner – @tR_saKuuu


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