THE FLYING DUTCHMAN: Can Anyone Stop Jarno Opmeer?
October 29, 2020
You canāt 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 – thatās overpowered if you were wondering ā 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, itās the operator, not the hardware, that is a cut above the competition, and heās certainly not showing any signs of slowing down.
āIām very happy of course!ā, he began, off the back of a near-flawless race week.
āThe pace was good straight away, and the strategy went very well. All the overtakes went quite smoothly, and itās such a great start already with the 1-2 for the team.ā
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The team of course is Alfa Romeo, who boast a hefty advantage in the teamsā standing after just a trio of races. Their gap of 29 points over Red Bull is a phenomenal start.
āI think itās either us or Red Bull at the momentā, he said when asked about title favourites.
āBut thereās 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.
āI hope for more of that. I donāt think itās going to be very often that Red Bull and Alfa are 1-2-3-4, but it might happen again this season if itās this close.ā
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.
āAt the moment, Iām the favourite. But, I know it only takes one race for that 24-point lead to be gone, so Iām 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 weāre just trying and get the wins.ā
His debut win in 2019 was hailed as āone of the most dominant wins in F1 Esports historyā, as the then-Renault Vitality driver crossed the line at the Hockenheimring to take his sole victory in yellow.
So how has last yearās 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.
āAfter 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.
āAlso this year I have Dani Bereznay as my team mate, who I think has the most balls in F1 Esports! He’s pushing me really hard so far and heās extremely fast, which helps us all.ā
āIāve seen a lot of people try it – it should be faster but itās so tricky with traffic.ā
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.
āYou donāt 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 theyāre faster than you again, so they might under-cut you by 7-8 seconds.ā
On the face of it, this seems like a backwards step, but itās short-term loss for the sake of some serious gains come the end of the race.
āWhen you yourself switch to the softs later in the race, itās important to catch people at the right moment. Itās tricky, but Iām quite comfortable doing it around most tracks.”
āI havenāt 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 didnāt make the right calls and dropped even further back from what they should have.ā
Opmeerās 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.
āI 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 itās 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.
āI felt like last year the arena took a bit of pressure off me. Youāre busy with other people and talking, while this year youāre 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.ā
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 ā albeit a digital one ā to Circuit Zandvoort in the Netherlands.
āI 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 Iām very excited for that one and really looking forward to it.
āI 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.
āIn Vietnam, Dani had a poor lap in traffic, and then a poor second lap due to track limits, and by then itās already over because the top teams only do two runs so they can save tyres for later on.ā
A WINNING HAND
If you paid attention to the F1 Esports scene during lockdown in mid-2020, youād have seen Opmeerās feat of breaking the record for a classic car lap time at Monaco. Itās nothing massively out of the ordinary ā heās a bona fide hotlapper, after all. What is remarkable? Doing it using just one hand…
āI just did it for fun, and for content really!ā He said, laughing off the unusual feat.
āIt 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 thatās how it started.ā
The term hot-lapper is something of a back-handed compliment. It implies unrelenting one-lap pace, but also overlooks race pace and strategy.
āItās a phrase that comes from the community. But I think in Bahrain and China I think I got rid of that name!ā
With 65 points, Jarno Opmeer is out in front of the driversā standings. Can anyone catch him as we head towards our next trio of races?
Join us for qualifying live on Twitch and YouTube from 15:30 GMT on Wednesday November 4! Or if youāre 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 canāt wait to see whatās next!
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