Hype Energy F1 Leagues – PS4 F1 – Round 3 China

Weather finally came into play in Apex Online Racing Hype Energy F1 Leagues’ PS4 top tier at the Chinese Grand Prix, which produced a spectacular finish.

Before even mentioning weather, the Grand Prix’s strategy was already a bigger concern than usual for the drivers because of the unorthodox spread of tyre allocation. For the Chinese race, the choice of compounds is as follows: Ultrasofts, Softs and Mediums. The negligence of the Supersofts in the lineup creates a significant strategical conundrum for the drivers, especially for the qualifying session where the purple-marked Ultras can easily outperform the yellow Softs but won’t last more than five or six laps in a fuel-heavy car. The Shanghai track’s demands on the tyres is massive and drivers need to be wary of their rubbers in order to give themselves as best a chance at consistent & efficient stints as possible.

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

Shanghai International Circuit

Qualifying

Entering the session, the drivers have access to forecast information which undoubtedly affected the course of qualifying this time around, as we learned that rain was planned for late in the race. Normally, you would see competitors hugely favouring the Softs, a superior race tyre which allows for a comfortable one-stop with the Mediums, but with the forecast calling for rainfall, the Ultras became the weapon of choice for much of the field.

It’s the McLaren team that ended up stealing the spotlight at the conclusion of the 18-minute session. Floris Wijers secured his second pole position of season 16 with a time of 1:29.272, 0.053s clear of his teammate Michael Romanidis, locking out the front row for the orange & blue representatives. The defending champion Alex Hanses of Williams and the Bahrain Grand Prix pole sitter Lucas “EpicGamer” Blakeley of Haas both registered identical times of 1:29.406 to land on second row. Ferrari’s Curlywurly7 got close with a 1:29.437 good for fifth position, followed by the second Williams car of Bernardo “Nardy” Perez (1:29.470) in sixth position. Ollie Davies (Mercedes) closely missed out on a top six, just one thousandth of a second shy, granting him a spot on row #4 alongside reserve driver clarky_110 (1:29.857), in lieu of Flying_F1NN’s absence. The Renault pair of Nervo & Alberto Foltran completed the top 10 with times of 1:30.255 & 1:30.396, respectively.

It was as straight forward a qualifying as it gets on China’s dry track. The main protagonists all chose to run three separate flying laps on the softest compound available; the Ultrasoft. Force India’s Jarno Opmeer and Ollie’s team-mate  Dominik “NTG2011Freak” Hoffman both went for a late run on the Softs in an effort to start the race on that more durable race tyre, which they would do from P13 & P14.

Race

The ten drivers of the bottom 10, free to fit the compound of their liking, all chose the Softs except for Ferrari’s alex94 who instead went for the white-marked Mediums. The 20 cars launched well at lights out but it wasn’t 100% scot-free. The Williams of Alex and the Ferrari of curlywurly7 ran side-by-side through the technical portion of the circuit and eventually made contact in Turn Eight, sending the Williams wide and off the track albeit unscathed, fortunately, though several positions down the order. Lucas Blakeley filled the gap left by Alex on curlywurly7’s side but he too made contact on Turn Nine’s entry which sent a part of his front-wing flying off, the damage severely compromising his chances of redeeming himself from Bahrain’s heartbreak puncture. Both McLaren cars remained at the top through the first lap with curlywurly7 now in the chase in P3.

Blakeley quickly became an easy target due to his crippled aero balance and was picked off swiftly by Ollie, Nervo and Nardy on Lap Two. Hoffman was denied an opportunity to run a clean race on the alternate strategy when he scraped a bit of his front-wing off a Renault’s back in the slow Turn Three on Lap Three and immediately pitted to replace it along with a new set of Mediums.

Up at the front, Floris started to struggle on his Ultrasofts on Lap Four and his team-mate Michael pulled the trigger at Turn 12 to take the lead. In no time, the Ferrari of curlywurly7 was hounding the vulnerable McLaren and made quick work of it in the snakey Turns One & Two for P2. The pit window had already opened when the front runners started coming in on Lap Five with Floris and Ollie, the former especially in a hurry to get rid of his burnt Ultras he had been unable to nurse properly. That premature tyre degradation that he could not avoid in his first stint may have prompted Floris to gamble on the strategy as he chose to install a set of Softs instead of the Mediums, which his rivals all preferred when they eventually pitted. It’s a decision that could have paid off had the rain arrived mid-race at the latest, but…

Michael, on the other hand, played his cards more prudently. He had followed his team-mate passively in the opening stint and had overtaken him with relative ease, never putting any unwanted stress on his tyres. He pitted a lap later and came back ahead but Floris, on the softer and grippier yellow compound, overtook him in the hairpin on Lap Seven. Ultimately, it was all quite artificial because Floris never pulled away and therefore never benefited from his tyre advantage. Michael took the lead of the race back from his team-mate on the 19th Lap. Floris was desperately needing the forecast rain to arrive, knowing full well that pitting before it did would simply cost too much. He was staying in DRS distance of Michael but the red Ferrari of curlywurly7 was catching up to the leading duo and eventually made it through Floris’ defense on Lap 22 when the McLaren’s tyres finally gave up with a puncture. Ironically, the rain started falling on that same lap. Too little too late, neutralizing the pole sitter’s hopes of a decent finish.

The rain falling so lightly on the circuit, so late in the race, put the drivers in a terribly delicate spot. Michael, the race leader, was visibly hesitant to surrender his position by pitting. Curlywurly7, not so much, preferring to act first on the 25th lap at the point where it was getting undriveable with old slicks, getting a set of Intermediate tyres installed. OllieD did the same from P4. Pitting with only three laps to go effectively put the drivers 20 seconds further behind, but as we would witness, it turned out to be the correct decision. It only got worse on track and the drivers who had gambled and stayed out at the front, Michael Romanidis and Jarno Opmeer, were tip-toeing to the finish with the greatest of care like they were skating on ice.

curlywurly7 and Ollie Davies had come out from their pit stop in seventh and eighth position, respectively. Every driver ahead of them had stayed on slicks and they all became easy pickings for the Inters-shod Ferrari and Mercedes, both dancing around Lucas Blakeley, Force India’s Cas_0807, Haas’ Dani “DaniMG” Moreno & Alex Hanses in rapid succession. Entering the 28th and final lap, curlywurly7 was then back into the top three, quickly catching up to the struggling leaders still on dry-weather tyres. The Ferrari got past Jarno’s Force India at Turn Eight to take second place and started hunting down Michael. The McLaren, rendered defenseless by the weather, could not repel curlywurly7’s attack when Turn 14 came, letting go of the lead so close to the checkered flag and even dropping an additional place when OllieD’s Mercedes pounced on the final corner of the race.

Whether it was indecision or simply a high risk-high reward play from Michael to stay out on the dries, it did not work out. Such is the effect that rain can have on a league race. Having led most of the race in a well measured performance on a tricky track, Michael could not take home more than 15 points with that third place but still, it was a respectable outing for the McLaren driver. Mission accomplished for Ferrari’s curlywurly7 with a sensational win from P5 on the grid. He got his elbows out early and made the right call later, displaying great pace in the middle, well done. For Mercedes’ Ollie Davies, it was a season-best finish in second place. Ollie made his way up the order throughout the race as he started from seventh place, an impressive drive from the consistently good Englishman.

Classified fourth & fifth were Red Bull’s DeagleKiller & Jarno Opmeer, respectively. The two battled it out for a long time, both starting well outside the top 10 and on the Soft tyres. DeagleKiller held the lead from Jarno starting from Lap Six when the front runners ahead had pitted, until Jarno overtook him in Turn One for the provisional lead. They both pitted within a couple laps successively and resumed their battle only for Jarno to pull away with superior pace. Ultimately, the Force India’s demise was the decision to stay out in the rain with slicks, which cost him a potential top three finish and allowed the Red Bull of DeagleKiller to take the place back. Good result and good points for both, nonetheless.

Dominik Hoffman secured an important sixth position finish in what was an impressive recovery drive from the Mercedes driver. Despite suffering front wing damage early on, Hoffman hung on and fought his way back up the order, made the right strategy call for wet weather tyres and claimed eight points. Had he not picked up a couple of three-second time penalties, he would have finished fourth.

The Williams duo of Alex Hanses and Bernardo “Nardy” Perez finished seventh and eighth. No doubt that Alex will be disappointed with that result, three places down from where he started. He was one of those who stayed out on slicks in the wet. Nevertheless, it’s a double points finish for the Williams representative. Cardoso “Alonso44” Wilfried, for Sauber, picked up a second consecutive points finish with his ninth place. This one was particularly good as he did so from all the way back in 19th on the grid. Rounding up the points finishers was the winner’s team-mate Alex94, the only driver to start on the hardest compound of the race, briefly leading the race on Laps 13 & 14.

The Chinese Grand Prix was spectacular to watch, with so many battles and final lap drama helped by rain. Three weeks later, the well-rested drivers will be taking back to the track, this time on Baku City Circuit for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Can Michael Romanidis hold on to the championship lead once more? Stay tuned!

Written by Kevin “saKuuu” Turner – @tR_saKuuu


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