The new season of F1 Esports is just around the corner.
After a spring of exhibition races alongside the Virtual Grand Prix and the drivers bedding in to amazing F1 2020 we are set for one of the most competitive seasons of any sim racing series ever.
But who could take home the silverware?
Let's start with the drivers. With no mechanical advantage thanks to all the cars being set at equal performance, the title will come down to pace, consistency, and as ever a good dose of luck.
Who could take home the title this year?
We have to start with the reigning champ. David Tonizza came out of the Pro Draft and took the field by storm last year.
He took three wins and seven podiums last year, but still had to come from behind in the final race to claim the title.
DRAFTEE CHAMPION: From unfancied to unbeatable
Tonizza will clearly have a target on him, but he could also have the full support of his team to help him retain the championship.
The nearly-man of F1 esports. Rasmussen led the championship into the final race last year only to lose out. This after a third-place finish in 2018.
He was in imperious form during the exhibition races earlier this year, and has ice in his veins for qualifying. He has faced some criticism for a lack of overtaking aggression, but when out front there is no catching Rasmussen.
The two-time champion was off the pace in 2019, but will be looking to bounce back in a big way.
BACK ON FORM?: Can Brendon Leigh recapture the magic that took him to two titles?
Leigh has bags of talent, but does he still have the hunger after already achieving so much success?
Perhaps the most in-form driver in F1 2020 right now is Jarno Opmeer.
The new Alfa Romeo driver finished fourth in the Drivers standings last year and is dominating a racing league that also includes a few other esports drivers.
The dynamics at Alfa Romeo will be interesting (we'll get to that) but Opmeer undoubtedly has the pace to compete at the very top this year.
Which drivers could pull off a surprise?
Racing Point's Lucas Blakeley was very impressive in the spring, and picked up a podium in one of his few appearances last year. He is now the unquestioned leader of the Racing Point team and has the opportunity to impress.
Likewise, Nicolas Longuet is freed from Red Bull and now with Renault, where he will get the chance to compete in every race. He picked up a podium for Red Bull last year and was consistently in the solid points during exhibition races.
Williams' Alvaro Carreton finished 8th last season, while Marcel Kiefer has joined Red Bull this year and shown good pace too.
Red Bull claimed a fairly comfortable Teams Championship in 2019 thanks to terrific performances from their trio of drivers. However, FDA was second without a single point from their #2 & #3 drivers.
So who could take the teams championship this year?
With the 3rd & 4th place drivers in the 2019 championship, Alfa Romeo have the best lineup on the grid.
ALFA DRIVER: Can Bereznay and Opmeer work together in one team?
Daniel Bereznay and Jarno Opmeer had four wins and nine podiums between them last year.
The big question is if two alpha drivers can co-exist in the same team. It was a bold move by Alfa to sign Opmeer away from Renault and certainly signaled their intent to push for the Teams Championship.
The defending Team Champions haven't stood still coming into 2020.
They added Marcel Kiefer and Tino Naukkarinen to Rasmussen, which gives them a wealth of experience and talent to put on the grid. Kiefer claimed the win in Silverstone last year, while Naukkarinen racked up 47 points.
The Scuderia got all their points from Tonizza last year.
This year they have added Enzo Bonito, whose 46 points put him 12th in the championship, and Filip Presnajder who has proven to be absolutely rapid in his young sim career.
The FDA will be a serious threat for both titles this year, in just their second season in F1 Esports.
Ok, prediction time.
It's tough to call this year. There is so little between Rasmussen, Leigh, Tonizza, Opmeer, and Bereznay it is going to come down to luck and consistency.
However this time last year looking beyond a three-peat for Leigh was impossible.
It will be interesting to see what the likes of Longuet and Blakeley can do with a full season on the grid, and then there are the likes of Bari Boroumand and Michael Romanidis that bring tons of pace to the grid.
We haven't even mentioned James Baldwin, who will be on the F1 esports grid for the first time with McLaren Shadow.
COLD-BLOODED: Rasmussen has been the Iceman of F1 Esports
However, my pick is Rasmussen. He just has too much speed to be denied again, and the hunger of being so close and missing out.
When it comes to the Teams Championship, Alfa Romeo are the clear favourites with Bereznay and Opmeer. If that dynamic can work they could be the only team scoring double podiums and high double-points consistently, which will give them a massive edge on the compeition.
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