Hype Energy F1 Leagues – Xbox One F1 – Round 5 Spain

The fifth round of action in the Apex Online Racing Hype Energy F1 Leagues represented a return to a traditional circuit for the Spanish Grand Prix. Would Surprize bounce back after the disappointments from the two previous races? Would Evo simply resume his dominance?

A largely different challenge than the streets of Baku awaited the AOR Xbox One F1 drivers in Spain; a technical circuit which does not present a ton of overtaking opportunities and where tyre management is once again crucial. At the Circuit de Catalunya, one must stay within DRS range of the car ahead to hope for a clean pass but the dirty air combined with the abundance of tyre-shredding right-hand turns really complicates the matter.  In a dry race scenario, would we see the drivers prioritize tyre longevity (Softs instead of Supersofts) in qualifying in favor of track position? Another question which begged to be answered.

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

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

Qualifying

A sun-baked track welcomed the competitors as they loaded into the session for a shot at pole position. It rapidly became obvious that the strategy of choice was gonna be to wait until the final few minutes for the drivers to go out on their one set of yellow-marked Softs to run one, maybe two, flying laps in another do-or-die scenario, rendering the major part of the 18-minute session relatively useless. Christopher “Pinecone” Parry, in his Haas car, was first to register a timed lap, albeit a non-competitive one on the Supersofts (1:17.141). His team-mate Jason97F1 along with Renault’s Z3lchy both followed the trend with slow-ish times of their own on the Supersofts as well, getting an overall feel for the track rather than focusing on putting the hammer down and nailing a perfect lap.

The pit lane got busy as we neared the end of the session with every one of the 16 drivers present going out for an ultimate attempt on their unique set of Soft compound tyres. Josh “Surprize” Idowu and Simon Weigang exchanged the provisional pole a couple of times but it’s Cedric “Evo” Thomé who snatched the honors in his Ferrari for the fourth time of season 16 with a time of 1:16.386. Mercedes’ ace Surprize completed the front row, just 0.038 seconds short. The second row would welcome the Red Bull of Simon (1:16.587) and the Williams of P1R Brown (1:16.696). MVPZero33 managed to put his McLaren in between the Force Indias of OMG its Jo and langman17 for fifth position (1:16.810), the pink panthers once more closely matched posting times of 1:16.706 & 1:16.819, respectively. Pinecone filled the remaining grid slot on row #4 with a 1:16.961. Rounding up the top 10 were Ferrari’s Leopard (1:17.009) & Renault’s Feisty Ted (1:17.093). Taylor Reynolds for Mercedes and Jason97F1 for Haas would benefit from free choice of fresh tyres as they both qualified just outside the top 10 in P11 & P12.

Race

Only three drivers out of 16 opted for a Medium-shod first stint; Reynolds, Jason97F1 and Sauber’s ZLCX4, with the rest of the field picking the Softs instead. Evo launched nicely and easily retained the lead as the drivers bolted off from their grid boxes under menacing overcast skies, a threat that would never materialize into rain as the track stayed dry for the duration of the event. The order at the front remained intact after the opening lap and the gaps began forming across the field which saw OMG its Jo pick up wing damage and fall way down the order. Force India’s struggles continued as langman17 rapidly lost positions to the more comfortable drivers Leopard, Pinecone and MVPZero33, leaving him in P8 after five laps of racing. In the meantime, Leopard had been nursing his tyres & ERS deployment but had also been studying Brown in the Williams up ahead. Come Lap Seven, the young Ferrari driver decided he’d had enough of being held up and overtook Brown into Turn One for third position. Leopard kept on charging and replicated the move this time against the struggling Red Bull of Simon, who had seemingly overheated his tyres badly and could only barely find enough grip to defend himself as he became the prey of his fellow competitors Brown, MVPZero33 and Pinecone, all picking him off within the same lap.

Of the front runners, Leopard and Brown were the first to pull the trigger on their pit stops, both choosing to come in on Lap 10 for fresh sets of white Mediums. Evo surrendered the lead on the following lap as he too dived into the pit lane, accompanied by Surprize, Pinecone and Simon. MVPZero33 finally pitted on the 12th lap to complete the contenders’ pit window which saw every driver who had started on the Softs go on the Medium compound for a lengthy final stint.

The net leader Cedric “Evo” Thomé quickly caught up to the yet-to-pit Sauber of ZLCX4, one of the three drivers to start on the Medium tyres, and made quick work of it. Nevertheless, it took the championship leader another six laps to finally claim back the lead of the Grand Prix back when Jason97F1 finally came in for his scheduled pit stop. Otherwise, Evo went uncontested for the vast majority of the race, although he was being kept honest by Surprize who stuck approximately three seconds back of the leader. That is until Surprize lost connection to the lobby in the final laps, turning his car into slower ghost version but, thankfully, he was able to reconnect before it was too late. It could have been much closer for the victory as Evo had previously picked up a three-second time penalty for track extending, a boost Surprize certainly could have used in the standings, but he’ll be relieved to have reversed his retirements trend with that straight forward second place. Evo went on to grab his fourth win of the season after only five races, further extending his championship lead, the only driver to have scored a podium finish in all races, so far. His Ferrari team-mate Leopard had a remarkable outing in the Spanish Grand Prix and finished in third position, which was gifted to him by McLaren’s MVPZero33 who ran out of fuel with only a few corners to go on the final lap, to complete a solid points haul for the prancing horse. It was a massive heart-break moment for MVPZero33 who had earned his spot on the podium on merit, overtaking Leopard on the 26th lap’s main straight after taking advantage of a good run out of the last corner, but that fuel miscalculation will be haunting him for nights to come.

Jason97F1 once more set himself up for an entertaining second stint by choosing the alternate strategy. The consistent veteran survived the action and proximity of his rivals in the opening laps to eventually be gifted the lead of the race once the Softs-shod front-runners had pitted, and held it from the charging Ferrari of Evo until he swapped his Mediums for a set of softer rubbers on Lap 20, rejoining in the top 10. A few laps later, he caught up to Brown who had lost fights earlier to Pinecone, his archenemy of Season 16, and Simon, then yielding one more time to the Haas on much fresher tyres. At that point, Jason97F1’s tyre advantage was starting to fade and so his aggression lessened in intensity, but he was still quick. Simon made a move on Pinecone on Lap 30 as both drivers went side-by-side in Turns One, Two and Three but the Red Bull found a way to make the move stick and stole P5 from the Haas driver. Pinecone & Jason97F1 had a duel on the final lap and battled wheel-to-wheel through Turns Four & Five with Jason97F1 coming out ahead and denying his younger team-mate of a stronger finish in Barcelona. Ultimately, Jason97F1 climbed up two additional spots; one when he breezed through the fuel-starved McLaren of MVPZero33 and another when he was promoted ahead of Simon due to a time penalty awarded to the Red Bull driver. Pinecone actually failed to hold on to P6 due to a time penalty of his own, surrendering the position to his rival Brown.

The race was uncharacteristically poor for both the Force India teammates but langman17 salvaged the deal with P9, right behind the limping MVPZero33. OMG its Jo placed 13th but will be disappointed with the result after starting from fifth, even though he suffered front-wing damage early, he just could never recover the lost time and score points. The pair seems to be going toe-to-toe every weekend and so it will be interesting to monitor their progression in season 16. ZLCX4 also made the alternate strategy work as he picked up the last point on offer with P10. It was not as impressive as Jason97F1’s run on a similar tyre strategy but the Sauber driver certainly will take the positive out of it.

Elsewhere, the Renaults of Z3lchy and Feisty Ted both retired midway through the race, as did Surprize’s team-mate Reynolds on lap 26. P11 and P12 for Clonetroop5 and Team Vodka Shot, respectively.

It was particularly intriguing to witness the stark contrast to last week’s Grand Prix in Baku. The Circuit de Catalunya rewards a completely different style of driving which surely explains the variation in the order. One thing for sure, Evo is taking control of the championship and it feels like it will take something special out of the likes of Surprize, Simon & co to take him out of the driver’s seat but what better opportunity than a race at Monaco to shake things up and turn things around? Stay tuned and find out on Sunday!

Written by Kevin “saKuuu” Turner – @tR_saKuuu


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