After a long and tough V10 R-League season, BMW is the winner of Season 2 after beating Aston Martin in the final.
It’s a victory that seemed fairly unlikely at the beginning of the campaign, when BMW first announced their new lineup. Kevin Siggy remained from Season 1, but Cem Bolukbasi, Laurin Heinrich and Coque Lopez were replaced with Michael Romanidis, Alen Terzic, and Felix Quirmbach.
Romanidis, who’d been with Williams in Season 1, emerged as one of the R-League’s most improved drivers and became a key member of the team. We caught up with the 17-year-old following BMW’s triumph to discuss all things R-League, including his excellent form, BMW’s rise and the pressure of the playoffs.
Romanidis was initially skeptical with moving from Williams to BMW at the beginning of the year.
“I wasn't quite sure of the team at BMW, I didn’t know what to expect there,” Romanidis told RacingGames this week.
“At the beginning I looked at it a bit negatively because I thought Williams would be one of the stronger teams - certainly stronger than BMW, which was the case in Season 1.”
Clearly leaving Williams was a blow for the youngster. But far from feeling sorry for himself, Romanidis began to work with his new teammates, prepare for Season 2, and tackle the challenge they faced together in Group B. Quickly, he discovered he was part of a team capable of taking the R-League by storm.
After the first three group matches, BMW was at the top of the standings, unbeaten and looking very confident.
“We didn’t expect to be that good, but we just kept working hard and improving our laps,” Romanidis says.
Around them, the teams that BMW shared the group with were struggling. A place in the playoffs became a very real possibility.
Romanidis says: “We were kind of surprised how far behind the others were instead of us being so far ahead. We expected them to improve at the end of the group phase, but no one really matched our pace, so that was a nice surprise to be honest!”
Romanidis also believes BMW’s excellent form in Group B was partly down to the luck of the draw.
With trickier teams like Redline, Red Bull, and YAS Heat all in Group A, BMW felt they stood every possibility of reaching the playoffs.
He says: “Our group was probably a little bit easier compared to the other one, so that was a good sign for us from the beginning.
“I think in the other group we would have a much tougher time”
Romanidis was also fortunate enough to already have good experience in the R-League, having been part of Williams’ run to the final in the first season.
However, he’s quick to dismiss the notion that this gave him an advantage.
“I don’t think I was the best driver [at Williams]”, he says.
“While I take a bit of pride that I’ve been in the final both times, I also understand that I’ve had very strong teammates.”
Romanidis has certainly had a strong teammate this season in the form of Kevin Siggy. The BMW driver is one of the most talented sim racers around right now, and is clearly someone other drivers look up to.
“He’s incredibly good, it’s no secret that this wouldn’t be possible without him,” says Romanidis.
“At the beginning, you always want to beat your teammate or be on the same pace as them, but in those last matches of the group phase we started to realise he was someone you could rely on to really get the top result.
“You always try to do that yourself, but it was obvious who the fastest driver in our team was. We just tried to help him as much as possible, on and off track. He's always been an incredibly fast driver in all of the sims and it was nice to have him in our team.”
BMW’s Season 2 adventure really started to get going when they reached the playoffs.
Having spent the majority of the group stage at the top of the standings, a defeat to McLaren in their final group match saw them drop down to 2nd - and that meant they missed out on an automatic place in the semi-final. A tricky playoff bout with YAS Heat awaited, and after trailing 2-0 at one stage in the match, BMW was able to produce a stunning comeback.
Looking back, Romanidis says: “We were quite lucky in the Monza team race, the luck kind of balances out in the season, and sometimes you can get lucky in important moments.”
But that win over YAS Heat just meant even stronger challengers awaited them, in the form of a semi-final duel with last season’s champs Redline.
“It was kind of all or nothing, one match between us and the final,” he says. “Obviously we know the Redline boys well and it was a little odd practicing with them prior to the match to get the job done and knock the other team out.
“I wasn’t really expecting to get to the final, especially after coming 2nd in the group and having to play two matches against two very good teams [in the playoffs]. But I think the match against YAS Heat gave us a lot of confidence, after that match we kind of went back to the drawing board and we realised that they had the same kind of raw pace as Redline, so if we can beat YAS Heat then we can beat Redline as well.”
A 3-1 win over Redline in the semi-final setup a fascinating finale with Aston Martin.
Like BMW, Aston Martin were not among the favourites to reach the final at the beginning of Season 2, while they also finished in 2nd place in their place and had to navigate their way through the quarter-finals.
Romanidis agrees that there were pleasing similarities between the two teams.
“It was nice to face them because they kind of had the same story as us. They had to play two matches like us, because originally we expected it would be McLaren in the final. I think McLaren were a little stronger than Aston Martin but somehow Aston won, so it was a little better to face them in the final.
“We just thought whatever team it would be we’d try our best and hope for the best. With Aston, we were confident we could win. I guess it shows that the big teams that we all thought would be the best this season weren’t quite as good as we thought they were.”
Having won the title with BMW and proven strong on track all year, Romanidis admits that any self doubt he had has washed away.
“When I moved to BMW, I didn’t want to do good results to prove them wrong or anything like that, I just wanted to do my thing and do the best I could do,” he says.
“But I can say from last season I’ve definitely improved as a driver and I’m happy with the performance I’ve done this season. It’s always the same as a driver, you don't care who the team is that you’re representing that much, you just want to do the best you can do for that team and for you as a driver.”
While moving from Williams to BMW was tricky, ultimately Romanidis is happy with the season overall.
“It was a shame to see Williams knocked out so early, but at the same time you think if you were in that team you wouldn't be in the final, so you just feel really blessed to be given this opportunity. If I went back, I wouldn't have changed anything… and I’m not complaining about the outcome!”