Lucas Blakeley Reborn: The Dark Horse of 2021? - F1Esports News

Lucas Blakeley Reborn: The Dark Horse of 2021?

November 22, 2021

In 2020, the team finished dead last. The man, Lucas Blakeley scored a handful of points. And yet, with six races remaining in 2021, the Scottish sensation is just 14 points adrift of reigning champion Jarno Opmeer. A man of many words, we caught up with the Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Esports racer ahead of Event 3, to see how he’s fine-tuning his approach to a title assault.

LUCAS 2.0

“I’ve driven better” he began, having been asked how he’s managed such a dramatic change of pace.

“But that’s not the biggest difference. There were a lot of small and big details last year that were completely wrong, which fundamentally didn’t allow us to be as competitive as we are this year.

“When I look back to last year, I’m not really surprised we weren’t competitive. If you stand still, you’re going to go straight backwards. You have to stay hungry and continue to want it bad enough. If you get complacent and think ‘yep, I’m quick enough’, you won’t reach perfection. That’s the only thing that’s going to allow you to win. We’ve seen how close the gaps are this year and it’s almost unhuman!”

AS YET UNTITLED

Much like the on-track duel between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, the 2021 F1 Esports Series Pro Championship presented by Aramco has been the closest contest for years. Okay, so maybe we’re only in our fifth year of F1 Esports, but it still counts! Jarno Opmeer is by no means guaranteed to retain his crown, and there are plenty of takers. Is Blakeley the heir to the throne?

“I don’t really think about the championship too much, because all you’re going to do by that is overcomplicate your thought process. I’m trying to take each session and each lap as it comes – there’s no point in thinking ‘what am I going to do at Round 12?’ when it’s not even round 7 yet.”

“It’s a good feeling to be up there, and it’s testament to how much hard work has gone into it. The hard work is not done though, you always have to keep pushing, there have been a lot of positives from this year, but still a lot of things we can improve on.

“I have to believe I can catch Jarno. If my answer was ‘no I don’t believe I can do it, he’s faster than me’, then what use would that be?!”

It’s been a mixed season so far, with new winners, new polesitters, and a new order. Old faces like Nico Longuet, Frede Rasmussen and Marcel Kiefer are all in the mix, while characters like Blakeley and Bari Boroumand have shot up the ranks.

“In that Bahrain race, I was having so much fun, my heart rate was through the roof, when you’re confident and in that groove, it’s the best feeling to be at the front, jostling for position. The pressure is always high, but if you get yourself in the right headspace and have the confidence in yourself, everything feels natural. It’s a new position to be in, but it’s something I’ve been longing for, so I want to make the best of it and trying to push for the next six races.”

SIX OF THE BEST

The halfway point of the season is as good a time as any to pause and reflect on the season so far. And while the second event didn’t match the status of the first for Blakeley, there is a lot to smile about.

“I’ve not given myself a stupid ego. I’ve been realistic and grounded and haven’t taken anything for granted. After Event 1, I think it would have been easy for me to get carried away. But going into Event 2, I probably wasn’t as confident as for the first one, and that’s because I don’t take anything from the last event as a guarantee of success for the future.

“It’s all about arriving in that particular session, doing as best you can and delivering in that moment. If I can do exactly that for the remaining six races, the championships will take care of themselves. My aim is to get confident, and keep a positive mindset. It’s been a positive first half to the season, so let’s try and make it a positive next half.”

With the first two events just two weeks apart, there was very little time to rest, with drivers having to nail six circuits over the span of just a fortnight. With more room to breathe for the third instalment, practice is somewhat less relentless – but never out of sight completely…

“Between Events 1-2, the gap was so small, so practically from the moment you wake up you’re on the rig, then you come off the rig and go straight to sleep. Thankfully we have a bit more time between Events 2-3.

“On a full day, you’d start driving at around 10, but wouldn’t finish driving until 11. You’d have breaks for lunch and dinner of course, but I’d say a light day is probably about six hours. Some people might think six hours isn’t that long, but we’re trying to extract performance, so you need full focus. It’s tiring, so when you can you try and take a break.

“In the past I’ve not had any breaks, so I take any opportunities I can to rest in between weeks. It’s a lot of hours, you’re really trying to train the muscle memory into yourself and get the confidence. People see it as ‘you play a game, it should be fun’, but this is the top level. We’re all out here trying to achieve our own goals, so it’s a lot deeper than a game in that respect, it’s relentless!”

GRIND-FULNESS

Practice alone does not a champion make. Blakeley’s marginal gains approach is something that can be applied to all walks of life. One cannot simply improve at driving and hope for the best; if you don’t have a 360-degree approach to all things in your life that contribute, you will go nowhere.

Rituals and routines are important, and he says he’s found one that works for him.

“On the morning of a race, I tend to get up at 7AM and go for a run. In the build-up to an event I will try to condition myself mentally and feel good physically. I’m not the fittest guy in the world but I go for a nice steady run in the morning, get some fresh air, and get the heart rate up. You can let your thoughts flow, listen to music, and it’s like a warm-up to the driving.

“When you’re qualifying, if you go straight from bed to the rig and then jump into the severe pressure of an Esports qualifying session, your heart rate just flies up, and it’s a massive rush of adrenaline and nerves all at once.”

By now, we’re all familiar with the effects of lockdowns and being within the same four walls for extended periods of time. But even when you’re on a tight schedule and need to put in the hours, the rest is just as important as the work.

“When I’m practicing intensely, it’s always good to get outside. I don’t do it often enough because I’m always in this room, but getting outside is good because it can totally change your mood, the fresh air’s excellent.

“At the end of the day, you need to be happy. If you’re not happy, you start to wonder why you’re not, and it’s important to be mentally in a good place. When it comes to performance, you need to be in a good state, you need to be positive and confident, so it’s all in the small details. The smallest details can give you the biggest results.”

Lucas Blakeley and co will be hunting down championship leader Jarno Opmeer as Event 3 gets under way! Join us from 19:30 UTC on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and on TV in selected regions as the racing resumes.




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