Hype Energy F1 Leagues – PC F1 – Round 3 China

Round 3 of the Apex Online Racing Hype Energy F1 Leagues was hosted in Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix. On PC’s F1 tier, a full grid of 20 drivers responded to the call for 28 laps around the Shanghai International Circuit, on which they would first have 18 minutes to execute their preferred qualifying strategy.

It’s not unusual for the Chinese Grand Prix to be afflicted by rain. That likelihood of occurrence plays a major role in the drivers’ preparation coming into the event as they want to make sure their wet weather pace is up to speed. A stark contrast to the previous week’s circuit of Bahrain where it just simply never rains, allowing the drivers to focus 100% on their dry pace. In the end, the rain never bothered to fall down this time around but make no mistake, that is not the sole important characteristic of the Shanghai track; similarly to Bahrain, it requires significant straight line speed to be able to take advantage of the long straights and the overtaking opportunities that they provide, but it has to be balanced with enough aerodynamic downforce to tackle its technical middle portion.

Track: Shanghai Internation Circuit, Shanghai, China
Laps: 28
Tyres: Ultrasofts, Softs, Mediums

Shanghai International Circuit

Qualifying

It was to be expected that the bulk of the qualifying session’s action would be towards its tail end because of the track’s combo of harsh abrasiveness and availability of compounds. The Ultrasofts, the softest compound on deck with Softs and Mediums as the alternatives (the Supersofts being snubbed), were proving less than ideal for race stints, severely hindering completion of a one-stop strategy. With only one set of Softs allocated per driver, it was evident that the dry weather strategy was going to favour that compound in qualifying and therefore, only a handful of flying laps were posted until the late session’s shootout.

Force India’s Mads Sorensen held provisional pole practically from the get-go when he registered a 1:29.630 on the purple-walled Ultras. That would stand as the only sub 1:30 lap for the majority of the session due to the remainder of the drivers aborting their runs or intentionally slowing down to avoid setting references on the vastly unwanted Ultrasofts. Williams’ Alvaro Carreton completed a 1:30.151 for provisional P2, also on the Ultras, a time he would struggle to beat on the Softs if he were to give that a try, all but exposing his strategy to go all-in with the purple rubber and the prospect of a favourable grid position.

Carreton quickly added to that bid as the session became lively in the last minutes with a stunning 1:29.115 for top dog honors. The real competition was indeed for P3 as everyone but Mads & Carreton were attempting their best on the slower Softs. Gergo “G3RRX” Bodi, for Mercedes, was the first to truly grab the Soft-tier provisional top spot with a 1:30.226 until his teammate “Dani “FormulaDani” Bereznay, who had missed last week’s race, raised him with a 1:30.198. Those efforts were not to be beaten and would secure a second row lockout for the Mercedes representatives, behind the Ultrasofts-shod cars of Alvaro Carreton and Mads Sorensen (1:29.409).

Jan Fehler grabbed 5th place in his McLaren (1:30.440), Marc “marc313” Schlüter 6th in his Haas (1:30.489). In row #4 : the race-winning Renaults of David Tonizza (1:30.539) and Daniele Haddad (1:30.619). Following the black & yellow cars for the remaining top 10 spots were the Red Bull of Chris “Ycoms” Holstein (1:30.696) along with Toro Rosso’s Ross Woodford (1:30.698). Once again, Williams’ Tino Naukkarinen stumbled in qualifying and could not do better than a 16th place, three tenths off P10. Returning driver Fabrizio Donoso (Force India) greatly compromised his Grand Prix win’s odds with an unforced error on his one Softs flying lap to start from P19. Ferrari’s Manuel “Whitelilac” Biancolilla was banned from qualifying and forced to stay in his box for the duration of the session.

Race

The vast majority of the grid’s compound of choice was the yellow Soft which was expected to last anywhere around 10 laps. Both drivers on the front row were in a tough spot right away despite having the best seat in the house for the launch. The Ultrasofts they were on were expected to heavily hit the cliff from lap five, maybe four. Outside the top 10, three drivers chose the less popular Medium tyres to start the race on; Aleksi “NonRunner” Korsman from 11th (Red Bull), Tino Naukkarinen from 16th and Whitelilac from 20th & last.

It merely took a few hundred meters to see a lead change as Mads went down Carreton’s inside coming into the long swooping right-hander that are Turns One & Two. Slickk lost control of his Sauber in Turn Four’s tricky exit and crashed nose first in the wall, completely taking off his front wing. The car was salvageable, however, and Slickk rejoined the track in his crippled ride and tip-toed his way to the pits. His teammate Filip “Smash” Presnajder stopped as well to serve a 5-second stop & go penalty he had picked up for corner cutting, making his Season 16 debut a disaster. Both drivers went on to finish the race but were never able to recover for a points finish.

Mads and Carreton led the tightly packed field and started pulling away slightly after a couple of laps. G3RRX, Fehler and Tonizza followed to complete the top 5. FormulaDani fell way down to P7 from P3 as he could not get his tyres to proper working temperature. Carreton drove his Williams past Mads’ Force India for the lead on Lap Three on the straight leading to Turn 14 in a move that came as soon as DRS could be activated. Mads, visibly struggling on his Ultrasofts, decided he had enough and traded them for brand new Softs on the following lap. It was an impossible situation for the Dane, putting him on an ineffective two-stop strategy and taking him out of contention.

FormulaDani performed two fairly optimistic and aggressive moves in Turn 14’s hairpin in an effort to make up for his poor start. In the first move, he dived down Ycoms’ inside and misjudged his braking point, locking his wheels and overshooting the corner at the expense of Ycoms’ front wing, allowing Daniele Haddad through in the process. FormulaDani attempted a similar maneuver the very next lap at the same place but this time going three-wide as marc313’s Haas had caught up. Again, the Mercedes overshot the corner and, again, pushed Ycoms wide. The Red Bull directly made its way into the pits from there but it got even worse when the crew omitted to replace its front wing. Those shenanigans eventually lead Ycoms into a premature retirement.

By Lap Six, Jan Fehler had overtaken the Mercedes of G3RRX for second position and had closed the gap to a struggling-for-grip race leader Alvaro Carreton, overtaking him in the hairpin in a splendid move around the outside. With his tyres screaming to get off, Carreton pitted and had fresh white Mediums fitted on his Williams. That early pit stop versus his Soft-shod opponents would allow him to gain track position at the end of their pit window, which began on Lap Nine with Renault’s David Tonizza. The Italian rejoined the track two seconds behind Carreton for net P2 with tyres three laps younger, which would prove to be an advantage much later in the race.

Laps 10 & 11 saw most of the front runners following suit with the pit stops; McLaren’s Fehler, Renault’s Haddad, both the Mercedes of G3RRX & FormulaDani, the Haas’s of Marek Schinz & marc313, Force India’s Fabrizio Donoso and Ferrari’s Szabo-Konyi “Foton” Bence. The obvious strategy was to get Medium compound tyres to get to the end of the race relatively comfortably, which every driver in contention did.

The second half of the race, post-pit stops, was absolutely thrilling. There were battles emerging from the drivers rejoining the track and everyone appeared to be on a similar level across the top 10, except perhaps for Dani Bereznay. Once he pitted, the AOR season 14 champion engaged into beast mode. For starters, he caught up to the 3-way battle of Fehler, Haddad and G3RRX on Lap 14 while these three had been having a go at each other for the last three laps. He took advantage of his teammate G3RRX’s vulnerability in Turn Nine to take net P5. On Lap 18, Fehler fell victim to the charging Mercedes in Turn Six for P4. Then, on Lap 21, Dani cleared the group’s leader Haddad in Turn One, completing the recovery to his initial position of P3.

Fabrizio Donoso, meanwhile, had been on a similar charge through the field. On Lap 19, Force India’s ace had managed his way up to the group who had been battling out for fourth place since Lap 12. McLaren’s Jan Fehler lost two positions in consecutive laps in Turn Six to his rivals G3RRX and Donoso. The latter then made a mistake when overtaking G3RRX on the 24th lap, picking up a three-second time penalty for track extending, putting a dent in what had been a superb recovery. That offense proved costly for the Chilean driver; he climbed up to fourth place by overtaking Haddad’s damaged Renault but could not create big enough of a gap to retain that position. Nevertheless, it was a successful recovery for Donoso, taking home 5th place and the 10 points that come with it.

At the top of the standings, a dramatic ending was shaping up with Carreton progressively losing time due to his slightly older tyres and with FormulaDani closing in rapidly on Tonizza once he had cleared the group Haddad, Fehler & G3RRX. On the 25th lap, second and third places were within DRS distance from their respective rival ahead, turning the last five laps into a three-way fight for the W. Carreton gifted the lead on Lap 26 when he missed his braking point by what looked like a mile at the hairpin, allowing his two competitors through. Then, FormulaDani pulled another flawless move into the snake of Turns One, Two & Three against David Tonizza, leaving the Italian in his rearview mirror. Nonetheless, Tonizza pulled it together and geared up for an ultimate attempt down the inside of the Mercedes at Turn 14 but the move failed as Tonizza tapped FormulaDani’s rear wheel mid-corner, nearly sending him into a spin. Realizing the fault was on him, Tonizza skillfully prevented Dani from turning around, allowing the Mercedes to go on ahead.

Outstanding drive by Dani Bereznay to clinch the victory after a first stint he admitted was extremely difficult. He was disappointed in himself for damaging Ycoms’ car and apologized. He qualified that race as one of his best Grand Prix drives ever. He may have missed round two, but round three had been FormulaDani’s affair. Tonizza’s second place result from seventh on the grid is a great one. It moves him up to first place in the standings, one point clear of Williams’ Alvaro Carreton, who picks up a second podium in a row. Carreton gambled on the tyre strategy by qualifying on the Ultrasofts and perhaps he will be disappointed by dropping two places from pole to P3, but his US to M effort was brave and well measured.

Gergo “G3RRX” Bodi qualified fourth and finished fourth. He drove consistently well through out the race and did not put a foot wrong throughout. He may have let his teammate through towards the end, but all things considered, there wasn’t much he could’ve done to avoid that. His 12 points, added to Dani’s 25, will help Mercedes greatly in the constructors’ championship where they now stand in third place.

Sixth position and eight points for McLaren’s Jan Fehler. It feels like the German had enough pace to secure a better position but ultimately, when it was time to get the elbows out he got out-muscled. Even though he moved up one spot from where he initially started, it’s safe to say that Daniele Haddad was poised for more than P6. The Australian Grand Prix winner suffered front wing damage late in the race and fell down the order unable to truly mount a defense anymore and with a late five-second penalty on top of that.

First points finish of the season for Ferrari’s Foton as he finished in eight position. Ferrari will need both their drivers in qualifying if they wanna hope to put a fight in the constructors, where they have potential to be higher. Finally, a double points finish for Haas with Marek & marc313 rounding up the top 10 in P9 and P10 respectively. Close call for NonRunner in P12 behind Chro and marc313 but the bottom line is a no-show on the score sheet for Red Bull who find themselves fourth in the constructors.

Williams’ driver Tino Naukkarinen surprisingly crashed on the 10th lap. The Finn lost his car coming off of the final corner and slammed dead on to the barrier, ending his race. Disappointing outing for Naukkarinen who’s yet to have a flawless Grand Prix. Williams could use a better finish from him to close in on Renault.

Apex Online Racing Hype Energy Leagues take a break for a couple of weeks. When we come back : the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, yet another track which typically provides action-packed entertainment. Stay tuned!

Written by Kevin “saKuuu” Turner – @tR_saKuuu


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