Hype Energy F1 Leagues – PS4 F1 – Round 2 Bahrain

The Apex Online Racing Hype Energy F1 Leagues returned in full force for the Bahrain Grand Prix following the excitement of Season 16’s opening race at Melbourne. The PS4 F1 tier hosted an absolutely thrilling race under the lights of Sakhir’s Bahrain International Circuit where the podium honours were far from being decided come the very last 29th lap.

It wasn’t exactly clear what we had in store for Round 2 of AOR Season 16, strategy-wise especially. The Bahrain circuit being vastly different in nature compared to Albert Park with a wide tarmac, large run-off areas, elevation changes, long straights & off-camber corners as opposed to Australia’s relatively flat and tight track where corners succeed one another quite rapidly. In theory, track position is not as critical around Bahrain as what we have witnessed last week and therefore, and it was interesting to see how qualifying was going to play out considering the high level of wear the tyres endure throughout the 29-lap event. To complete the preferred one-stop strategy on the Supersofts (the softest compound available), a driver would need to be cautious on both race stints to avoid the displeasure of a late puncture. The logical alternative, then? Sacrificing a better grid position in qualifying for the guarantee of a more durable, albeit slower, tyre like the yellow-walled Softs.

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

Qualifying

It’s the Australian Grand Prix winner, McLaren’s Michael Romanidis, who set the tone early on in the session with the sub 1:26 time of 1:25.920 on the Supersofts. The majority of the 18 drivers completed laps in succession in the opening minutes of the session and Romanidis’ time stood atop until DeagleKiller took his Red Bull around for a 1:25.801 and the provisional pole that came with it. The second runs of flying laps truly rendered the end classification unpredictable with several drivers exchanging the top five positions between themselves but it was Lucas “EpicGamer” Blakeley, in his Haas car, who made the loudest statement with a 1:25.567. Some drivers, such as Sauber’s Cardoso “Alonso44” Wilfried, were pulling out of their hot laps at the last possible moment, setting themselves up for a late session run on a harder compound of tyre.

Ultimately, it’s Blakeley who charged up to pole position in the final runs with a stunning lap of 1:25.265, over three tenths clear of closest opponent DeagleKiller (1:25.602). Mercedes’ Ollie Davies grabbed P3 with a 1:25.666 effort, accompanied on row three by Toro Rosso’s Connor “BigC_019″(1:25.724) who had missed Round 1’s race. On row four; Force India’s Jarno Opmeer (1:25.751) in P5 just ahead of Romanidis (1:25.802), unable to improve significantly on his early session effort. Further down the order in seventh and eight; DeagleKiller’s teammate at Red Bull Tim Palm (1:25.815) and Dani Moreno (1:25.817) in the pole sitter’s Haas sister car. Completing the top 10 were the second Toro Rosso of Flying_F1NN (1:25.916) flanked by the only Renault driver to show up Alberto Foltran (1:26.088). Notably missing in the top 10 : McLaren’s Floris Wijers (last week’s pole sitter) in eleventh and the defending champion Alex “Syntetic96” Hanses for Williams all the way down in eighteenth, dead last!

Race

As it turned out, every driver to secure a place in the top 10 on the grid had done so on the Supersofts, which they had to remain on. Conversely, the eight others who did not all chose a different compound to try and offset their track position disadvantage. Of those eight, seven went for the yellow Softs and only one, Ferrari’s Alex94, chose the white Mediums. The cars launched off their grid box at lights out and accelerated towards the bottleneck that are Turns One & Two and they did so cleanly, avoiding any major contact or incident. The top four of Blakeley, DeagleKiller, Davies and BigC remained intact with Wijers making up four spots from P12 to P8. Romanidis suffered a difficult start and found himself in P9 behind his teammate.

The McLaren duo pounced on a mistake from Dani Moreno on the second lap to take seventh and eighth place in what was a very tight field, barely any gap between every single car, and on Lap Five an incident inevitably happened when Wijers’ car tangled with Opmeer’s Force India in Turn Four, forcing the McLaren into an early pit-stop for a new wing and a set of Medium tyres.

Blakeley, who had gotten off to a rocket start early on, initiated the pit phase on Lap Six after dropping from the lead down to third place with his tyres seemingly shot, sending him back to 17th as he rejoined the track with fresh Medium compound tyres. Mercedes’ Ollie Davies and Red Bull’s DeagleKiller were then leading the race with half a second between them, cautious not to wear out their own tyres too soon for as long a first stint as they could afford. Not too far behind, Romanidis kept making moves, overtaking the struggling Toro Rosso of BigC in Turn 1 for P4. The latter decided to come in for his pit stop on Lap Seven, getting rid of his Supersofts in favour of a set of Mediums. Flying_F1NN followed suit on the next lap and rejoined a second ahead of BigC, successfully undercutting his own teammate.

Unable to stretch it any longer, the leading trio of Davies, DeagleKiller & Romanidis converged into the pit lane at the end of Lap Nine, all three unsurprisingly choosing to go for the Mediums and therefore concluding the Supersofts runners’ pit window. Lucas Blakeley crucially remained ahead of that trio when they rejoined the track, 2.5 seconds ahead of Davies. Romanidis came out to find the Toro Rosso of F1NN right beside him coming into Turn One and could not stay ahead on the straight-away to Turn Four, yielding the position to the young prospect. The situation at the top of the leaderboard after the Supersoft runners had pitted: Dominik “NTG2011Freak” Hoffman P1 for Mercedes, Ferrari’s Curlywurly7 over four seconds behind battling it out with Sauber’s Jthorn97, all three Softs-shod.

Leader Dominik Hoffman decided that Lap 11 was his cue to complete his pit stop. After installing brand new white-walled Mediums, he stormed out of the pits to rejoin in P11 just behind Flying_F1NN. His closest opponents on track Curly & Jthorn chose to wait a couple more laps before pitting but two other Softs-shod drivers boxed shortly after; Williams’ Bernardo “Nardy” Perez & Sauber’s Wilfried who were third and fourth respectively at the time. Unfortunately, Nardy’s race would come to an end prematurely when he retired later on Lap 17. Curly & Jthorn effectively surrendered the lead on Lap 13, trading worn-out Softs for fresh Mediums, along with Williams’ Alex Hanses who was quietly going about his own race, not losing any time on the alternate strategy but visibly not as quick as one would typically expect. It’s worth mentioning that Hanses was competing on a different setup than he his used to over at Williams Esports HQ.

A man on a mission is what you would call Dominik Hoffman when witnessing his second stint form. Hoffman, on the fresher tyres, stormed through his opponents who had out qualified him earlier, seemingly casting a curse on themselves in the process. It was a truly brilliant performance from the Mercedes driver, overtaking Flying_F1nn, teammate Ollie Davies, and DeagleKiller in the span of four laps to claim second position. At which point, on Lap 17, he was only three seconds behind race leader Lucas Blakeley on tyres five laps older, a significant difference at Bahrain. Hoffman completed the pass for the lead on Lap 22 in Turn One, assisted by DRS and a much healthier battery deployment available compared to Blakeley’s who had been driving aggressively to try and avoid the inevitable, a method that prevented him from nursing his tyres & ERS and leaving him vulnerable to the red hot Hoffman once he had caught up to him. Once the move was done, Hoffman never looked back and pulled away, comfortably taking the checkered flag for Mercedes despite two 3-second time penalties added to his final race time.

For Haas’ Blakeley, it was heartbreak on the final lap of the race when he got a puncture coming into Turn Eight with still a long way to go to the finish line. He had been losing pace progressively ever since surrendering the lead seven laps earlier but as he was clinging to second place, one of his tyres bursted. Nevertheless, the pole sitter brought home six points by finishing seventh. Meanwhile, the fight for the second and third steps of the podium had been nothing short of breathtaking between Ollie Davies, Michael Romanidis and DeagleKiller. Inititally, early on the second stint, Flying_F1NN was putting up a fight to Romanidis and a potential podium finish but he succumbed on Lap 24, unable to defend against the McLaren any longer, finishing a very respectable fifth from ninth on the grid. Davies vs Deagle was the main event in Bahrain, however, as they traded blows for the majority of the race, constantly overtaking one another, mostly into Turn One. They were both evenly matched on pace and kept pushing each others’ limits, up until the final minutes that is, when their fighting had allowed Romanidis to catch up to them on the final run to Turn One. The determined McLaren driver was not interested in being a spectator to the Red Bull vs Mercedes bout and muscled wheel-to-wheel against the two drivers for half of the final lap until he was able to grab second place when the punctured-affected Haas of Blakeley got in the way of that three-way scrap.

Ultimately, Michael Romanidis was able to follow-up his Australian Grand Prix win with an outstanding drive to second place at the Bahrain Grand Prix. His teammate Floris Wijers however could not shine as brightly when his race turned into a forced two-stopper due to early front wing damage, finishing outside the points. Red Bull’s DeagleKiller rounded up the podium in P3 with that superb drive of his. Not so much for his teammate Tim Palm, though, unable to score points from P7 on the grid, finishing P12. Tough luck for Mercedes’ Ollie Davies who ends up just outside the podium with P4 after three seconds were added to his total race time due to a track extending penalty, a solid performance nonetheless. Curlywurly7 added eight points to his tally and for Ferrari from eleventh on the grid. Cardoso Wilfried finally picks up a few points with a P8 finish from P17, a good recovery after what surely was a disappointing qualifying for him. Toro Rosso’s BigC picks up two points with ninth place for Toro Rosso in his first outing of the season. The last point scorer, the sole driver to start on the Medium compound tyres; Ferrari’s Alex94. Alex leaded the race for a while, thanks to his Mediums’ longevity, and pitted on lap 16 for a set of Softs.

Once again, Bahrain produced another truly great league race full of overtakes and wheel-to-wheel action, most of it clean, showcasing the high level of talent this PS4 F1 field contains. At one point on lap 17, P8 to P16 drivers all had less than a second between them. You don’t see that too often in Formula 1!

Up next: the Chinese Grand Prix. Stay tuned for Hype Energy F1 Leagues action!

Written by Kevin “saKuuu” Turner – @tR_saKuuu


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