Hype Energy F1 Leagues – PC F1 – Round 5 Spain

Round 5 & the Spanish Grand Prix for Apex Online Racing Hype Energy F1 Leagues’ elite PC tier. It’s still quite early in the season but David Tonizza & Renault are dominating both championships after four races. Let’s take a look at whether or not their rivals had an answer for them as we returned to the iconic Circuit de Catalunya.

The return to a traditional track promised change in the field’s dynamic as we went from wide circuits that present plenty of overtaking opportunities – Baku, Shanghai, Bahrain – to the narrow and technical Circuit de Catalunya where track position is key. The common denominator for season 16 has certainly been the importance of tyre management and its effect towards the strategies. More often than not, the majority of the drivers have favored a harder tyre compound to qualify on, enabling them to complete a comfortable one-stop strategy in the race, when the weather allowed it… Thereby, Spain was expected to be no different; a high-risk high-reward qualifying session where the competitors would gamble on a unique flying lap attempt on their only set of yellow Softs available, as the track state would be at its peak.

Track: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
Laps: 33
Tyres: Supersofts, Softs, Mediums

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

Qualifying

There was not going to be any rain bothering the drivers as they loaded into a sunshiny qualifying session for a shot at pole position. The opening half mainly served as a testing field, or a track acclimatization programme, seeing how most drivers were setting laps on the hardest compound on deck; the white-walled Mediums, or simply going around reconnaissance-style with none to low ERS deployment, making sure to leave plenty of meat to cut in for a final attempt on the Softs as the session would close in to its end.

Championship leader David Tonizza set a terrific reference on the Mediums halfway through the session with a 1:17.045, a time he wouldn’t be able to improve on later, resulting in a season-low P17 on the grid. Things got rolling seriously in the final minutes of the session and Mercedes’ Gergo “G3RRX” Bodi was the first to register a convincing lap on the Softs with a 1:16.391 but he was quickly tossed aside by a sensational 1:16.113 effort from Force India’s Fabrizio Donoso which would remain unbeaten and give the promising talent a first pole of the season. No one managed to get close to Donoso but Renault’s Daniele Haddad had a great run with a 1:16.306 to clinch the remaining front row spot. Manuel “Whitelilac” Biancolilla put his Ferrari besides G3RRX’s silver arrow on second row thanks a to 1:16.553 lap. His team-mate Szabo-Konyi “Foton” Bence followed extremely closely behind, 0.004s adrift for fifth place to be flanked by McLaren driver Chro on row #3 (1:16.564). Red Bull’s Chris “Ycoms” Holstein grabbed P7 with a 1:16.605, only 0.006s ahead of Dani “FormulaDani” Bereznay’s Mercedes. Completing the top 10 on the same tenth as FormulaDani were Haas’ marc313 (1:16.637) & Sauber’s Filip “Smash” Presnajder (1:16.674).

Williams’ Tino Naukkarinen’s return after missing the Azerbaijan Grand Prix yielded 11th position, 0.009s off of 10th place. Uncharacteristically populating the bottom five of the leaderboard along with Tonizza were Alvaro Carreton for Williams and Jan Fehler for McLaren.

Race

As the broadcast made its way into the race session, we quickly learned that the forecast called for large amounts of rain expected to start approximately halfway through the 33 laps. The drivers within the top 10 on the grid were all stuck on their qualifying-worn Soft tyres which could turn out to be catastrophic depending on when the rain would hit. The bottom half of the grid mostly opted for the Medium compound with only Toro Rosso’s Ross “n0body” Woodford and Sauber’s Slickk choosing the yellow Softs.

The start of the race was tidy as the 19 drivers stormed out of the gates under the clouds of Barcelona, Donoso remained in the lead after adopting a defensive stance approaching Turn One. The order stayed intact with Haddad, G3RRX, Whitelilac and Foton rounding up the top 5. There was a bit of a skirmish in the midfield which saw Woodford visit the gravel trap at Turn 12 when marc313’s Haas tapped the left side of his Toro Rosso, turning it around into a spin. On Lap Two, Tonizza sent his Renault down the inside of both Carreton and Haas’ Marek, who were already side by side coming into Turn Five, in an aggressive but spectacular attempt to make some ground up. The move paid off as the Renault ace took P15 off of Marek but Carreton, however, held on to 14th position.

The pack was still pretty tight as it began the fifth lap of the race with positions one through to seven all separated by less than a second. Daniele Haddad benefited from a great exit out of the final corner to overtake Donoso on the main straight, DRS-aided, capturing the lead in the process. It’s on that same lap that the clouds finally gave up and the rain started falling down track wide. Donoso kept up with Haddad after he had surrendered the lead and took it back from the Renault as soon as they reached Turn One again. Meanwhile, Whitelilac seemed to find his footing in the changing conditions, overtaking G3RRX with a splendid move at the hairpin on Lap Six then picking off Haddad for P2 in the ninth lap’s first corner.

An ever intensifying rain meant the inevitability of a pit window was looming. It’s certainly one of the hardest factors to gauge in F1 2018; to determine when is the ideal time to come in for a set of wet-weather tyres in such conditions, losing as less time as possible doing so. A single lap too many and one could lose five, 10 seconds or even more to his rivals. Laps Nine & 10 saw most of the field come into the pits to get rid of their slicks and thereby considerably shuffling the order as Fabrizio Donoso’s race crumbled when his crew installed another set of Softs instead of the Intermediates obviously being required in the rainy conditions, forcing the Force India man into the pits again on the next lap, sending him all the way down the order of a race he had been leading just a couple of laps prior.

Daniele Haddad happily took over as the leader of a now completely rained-out race, followed by G3RRX, Foton, Slickk and Whitelilac respectively. Slickk managed to get his Sauber past Whitelilac’s Ferrari on the thirteenth lap which rapidly resulted in a five-car train forming behind him with another one starting from P10 to P15. The drivers were seemingly content of simply keeping their nose clean, cautiously driving through the demanding Spanish track with significantly reduced visibility. A second pit window opened on the 20th lap when the drivers conceded to the fact that the rain was there to stay and that their current set of Inters would most likely not make it through the dozen laps left. All of the contenders came in for a second pit stop in three consecutive laps with the exception of Whitelilac and FormulaDani who both chose to gamble on staying out and preserving their track position, splitting the strategy with their front runner team-mates. FormulaDani took the lead over from his Ferrari opponent on the 26th lap but the advantage he and Whitelilac had gained by refusing to pit again vanished before long and ultimately cost both of them a chance to score points as they were easily picked apart by their charging counterparts.

Winning the pit phase by the slightest of margins, Haddad had remained in what was then the net lead but he eventually surrendered it to a determined G3RRX who audaciously capitalized on the vulnerable Renault in Turn Seven, an unlikely spot to overtake in, making the move that much more remarkable. G3RRX easily discarded Whitelilac once he had reeled him in on Lap 28 and then was very much gifted the lead of the race by his Mercedes team-mate FormulaDani as they reached the main straight. From that moment forward, the victory became a formality for the confident and rapid Gergo “G3RRX” Bodi, claiming his first win of the season in challenging conditions; a statement to his fellow competitors that he is a force to be reckoned with. Daniele Haddad crossed the finish line in second position, 4.5s back of the race winner, but a three-second time penalty moved him down to P3. For only the second time in five tries, Haddad stepped on the podium, a minor tragedy considering the potential he’s shown to this point. Regardless of the demotion, Haddad confirmed in his post-race interview that he was happy with the overall result. The sole points scorer for Renault failed to maintain the lead but he certainly succeeded in repelling Foton’s attacks on track, whom he would then concede the position to due to his penalty. Foton’s second place will mean a great deal for him as he finally picks up a top five finish but also salvages Ferrari’s efforts after team-mate Whitelilac’s gamble not to pit cost him a chance of scoring decent points.

It’s McLaren’s Chro who finished fourth on track, having completed terrific overtaking maneuvers towards the end of the Grand Prix to get there. He made a double-overtake stick in Turn 10 of the 30th lap against Carreton & Whitelilac and picked off Slick’s Sauber in the slow final chicane of Lap 31 to earn the position. However, he was awarded a three-second time penalty which sent him down two places in the classification. A decent points haul nevertheless, but on that might sting after such a spectacular display of skills. Benefiting from the McLaren’s fault were Slickk for Sauber and Ycoms for Red Bull who both survived a long race in quieter but consistent fashion. Despite starting from P15, Alvaro Carreton recovered up to P7 as the only points scorer for Williams whereas Tino Naukkarinen crashed and retired on the 22nd lap. The Haas pair of marc313 and Marek were split by Fabrizio Donoso’s Force India in ninth place, rounding up the points scoring positions. Surprisingly, the drivers’ championship leader David Tonizza retired from the race on the 25th lap, a rare misstep for the Renault driver.

We leave Spain with a new Grand Prix winner in Season 16 and we go to Monaco for what should certainly by one of the wildest races of the calendar. Who shall win in Monte-Carlo? Stay tuned!

Written by Kevin “saKuuu” Turner – @tR_saKuuu


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