The Flying Dutchman Can Anyone Stop Jarno Opmeer
You can’t spell Opmeer without OP. Alfa Romeo Racing Esports charger Jarno Opmeer blew the competition away in our first trio of races in 2020, amassing two wins and a further podium. His status as OP – that’s overpowered if you were wondering – was demonstrated best in the third race, where he overtook five cars in the last seven laps to take a stunning win.
In any other video game, an item of this power would have been patched. Remember the Model 1887 akimbo from Modern Warfare 2? A weapon so ubiquitously overpowered that it had to be made worse through patches. Twice.
Well, in this instance, it’s the operator, not the hardware, that is a cut above the competition, and he’s certainly not showing any signs of slowing down.
“I’m very happy of course!”, he began, off the back of a near-flawless race week.
“The pace was good straight away, and the strategy went very well. All the overtakes went quite smoothly, and it’s such a great start already with the 1-2 for the team.”
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The team of course is Alfa Romeo, who boast a hefty advantage in the teams’ standing after just a trio of races. Their gap of 29 points over Red Bull is a phenomenal start.
“I think it’s either us or Red Bull at the moment”, he said when asked about title favourites.
“But there’s still nine races to go, so anything can happen. We took a good lead in event one, and we almost finished 1-2 in China as well. I think it was only the third ever 1-2 in F1 Esports in Bahrain, so I think we can get some more 1-2s this year.
A near-flawless 1-2 for @SauberEsports 👌
Reigning champion Tonizza down in P20 😱
Top seven separated by 2.7 🤏
Yes… F1 Esports is back with a vengeance! 🔥#F1Esports 🎮 #F1 pic.twitter.com/KRE040Jgbg
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 14, 2020
“I hope for more of that. I don’t think it’s going to be very often that Red Bull and Alfa are 1-2-3-4, but it might happen again this season if it’s this close.”
Red Bull Racing Esports did seem to be the best match for Alfa Romeo in the first event, with the quartet of drivers across the two teams inseperable on track, particularly in China. Marcel Kiefer is the nearest challenger to Opmeer in terms of points, although the gap is fairly sizeable ahead of event two.
“At the moment, I’m the favourite. But, I know it only takes one race for that 24-point lead to be gone, so I’m just taking it a race at a time. Maybe in the third or fourth event, we can see if we can calm it down a bit and go for safe races, but right now we’re just trying and get the wins.”
His debut win in 2019 was hailed as “one of the most dominant wins in F1 Esports history”, as the then-Renault Vitality driver crossed the line at the Hockenheimring to take his sole victory in yellow.
So how has last year’s fourth-place man (in the final standings) molded himself into the man to beat early on this year round? Rest, it seems, is just as important for growth as practice.
“After the last event last year I took a bit of a break, and when I started again I improved more and more, and felt like I hit a peak at some point.
“Also this year I have Dani Bereznay as my team mate, who I think has the most balls in F1 Esports! He’s pushing me rally hard so far and he’s extremely fast, which is helping us all.”
“I’ve seen a lot of people try it – it should be faster but it’s so tricky with traffic.”
The two wins in Bahrain and China were of course down to excellent qualifying and race pace. But the unconventional strategy of Medium-to-Soft Pirelli tyres was the silver bullet that gave him such a sublime pace advantage come the end of both races. This enabled Opmeer to pull off a slew of miraculous overtakes, and seize victory on both occasions.
“You don’t see it on the broadcast, but the medium run is super-important. At the start the softer runners are going to be faster than you, and then they pit for new tyres and they’re faster than you again, so they might under-cut you by 7-8 seconds.”
On the face of it, this seems like a backwards step, but it’s short-term loss for the sake of some serious gains come the end of the race.
“When you yourself switch to the softs later in the race, it’s important to catch people at the right moment. It’s tricky, but I’m quite comfortable doing it around most tracks.”
Seven laps remaining. Let's get it! 👊
❌ Tormala❌ Blakeley❌ Rasmussen❌ Bereznay❌ Kiefer
It's official… @jarno_opmeer is OP! 🤯#F1Esports 🎮 #F1 pic.twitter.com/mZkq9jQsWd
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 16, 2020
“I haven’t seen anyone pull it off quite as well as I did in China, Alvaro [Carreton] did quite well in China too, but I also saw some people who didn’t make the right calls and dropped even further back from what they should have.”
Opmeer’s strategy was slightly different in the second race in Hanoi, where David Tonizza returned to the top of the podium. This made the race a pure head-to-head duel for the win on absolute pace, and the reigning champion dented what might have been a clean sweep.
“I was a bit disappointed not to win from pole in Vietnam. I think I made a poor decision pitting at the same time as the top two, but not every race can go exactly according to plan. A triple win would have been amazing, but the level is so high that it’s a bit unlikely!
HOME FROM HOME… FROM HOME
Home. Arena. Which is best? Most drivers have a preference either way. As many of us continue to work from home, the pressure of performing on a global stage from within the confines of your bedroom can be a bit daunting. However, Opmeer missed the buzz of the Gfinity Arena in London
“I felt like last year the arena took a bit of pressure off me. You’re busy with other people and talking, while this year you’re alone and on a Discord call with the team. I would say I prefer the arena rather than racing at home, but I think a lot of people would have it the other way around.”
The Gfinity Arena is used as a remote broadcast base, but no spectators are present in 2020.
And while everyone is racing from home in that sense, Opmeer will also face a home race of a different kind next time out, as F1 makes its return – albeit a digital one – to Circuit Zandvoort in the Netherlands.
“I really like Zandvoort. Not just because of the layout, but also I prefer the high-downforce tracks over the low-downforce tracks. All the first three tracks were medium-low downforce, so Zandvoort is the first high-downforce track so I’m very excited for that one and really looking forward to it.
“I think overtaking will be difficult, so qualifying will be really important. 20 cars on a four kilometer track is going to be very busy! That puts a lot of pressure on you, because if you mess up your first run you have to do it on the second run.
“In Vietnam, Dani had a poor lap in traffic, and then a poor second lap due to track limits, and by then it’s already over because the top teams only do two runs so they can save tyres for later on.”
A WINNING HAND
If you paid attention to the F1 Esports scene during lockdown in mid-2020, you’d have seen Opmeer’s feat of breaking the record for a classic car lap time at Monaco. It’s nothing massively out of the ordinary – he’s a bona fide hotlapper, after all. What is remarkable? Doing it using just one hand…
World Record Monaco Classic Cars but with one hand. pic.twitter.com/RYLQ7WdDYh
— Jarno Opmeer (@jarno_opmeer) September 18, 2020
“I just did it for fun, and for content really!” He said, laughing off the unusual feat.
“It all started when I was karting in mini 60. It was my last year, the next year I was going to do juniors, which is physically a lot harder. My dad came up with the idea to drive with one hand, and see how close I could get to driving with two hands. Obviously driving with one hand physically a lot harder in karting. I got physically tired a lot quicker, but the I got within a few tenths, and that’s how it started.”
The term hot-lapper is something of a back-handed compliment. It implies unrelenting one-lap pace, but also overlooks race pace and strategy.
“It’s a phrase that comes from the community. But I think in Bahrain and China I think I got rid of that name!”
With 65 points, Jarno Opmeer is out in front of the drivers’ standings. Can anyone catch him as we head towards our next trio of races?
Opmeer is out in front after the first trio of races.
Join us for qualifying live on Twitch and YouTube from 15:30 GMT on Wednesday November 4! Or if you’re not free, our first two races get going later that evening at 19:30, live across our usual platforms of Twitch, Facebook, YouTube, and on TV. We can’t wait to see what’s next!
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