It’s the beginning of April 2020 and there is still no action in Formula 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the drivers train at home, many of them doing simulator work as well. Simulators developed a lot during the years – both on the hardware and software side. Formula 1 has launched its own Esports series in 2017. We at Paddock Magazine had a chat with Daniel Bereznay, the 19-year-old Hungarian Esports driver who drives for Alfa Romeo Racing. He’s one of the fastest drivers in F1 Esports, coming second in the championship two years ago and finishing third last year. Dani won NotTheAustralianGP a few weeks ago, and finished third in NotTheBahrainGP, presented by Veloce Esports.
Firstly, congratulations on your recent results. How much work, practice, and preparation is behind this?
Thank you! To be honest with you, we were told before that most of the participants won’t be professional simulator drivers at both Veloce GP events. Therefore, I didn’t do my usual preparations, consisting of 30-40 hours before a normal championship race. On this occasion, the preparation took about 8 hours overall.
How did you fall in love with Esports?
Well, my father bought me a rally simulator software when I was a little child, and it became quite clear that I was the faster one. We managed to get better hardware and bought some new games. I just liked doing it to be fair. Moreover, I’ve always been a big fan of Formula 1 and I haven’t missed any races.
Is it true that you started racing with a 25-euro priced simulator wheel?
Exactly, I managed to qualify myself into the Esports series with a very cheap wheel. After that, I bought a better one and right now my team provides me all kinds of things.
How much did the Codemasters F1 game improve during the years?
It’s improved a lot. Of course, you can’t make all the changes in the simulator that you can make in real life, but you can still get a pretty good overview on how to set up a race car. We can make modifications on the front wing and the rear wing, the camber angle, the suspension, the anti-roll bar, the ride height, tyre and brake pressure, and the brake bias. The energy recovery system is manual, but sometimes it doesn’t really give a real picture like on advanced simulators, for example iRacing, rFactor, or Assetto.
I managed to qualify myself into the Esports series with a very cheap wheel.
Do you still think that Brendon Leigh is your toughest competitor in Esports?
Yes, I do. He didn’t have a good season last year for some reason, but he is still very quick. If he does a lot of practice, he is still on the top of his game.
Tell us about racing against real Formula 1 drivers like Lando Norris.
It was amazing, no words to describe it really. A dream come true – let’s say it like this. I’ve dreamed about getting closer to the elite world of Formula 1, which looked almost unreachable at times. However, I was never a fan boy of someone and it didn’t really put extra pressure on me, I was more excited about the number of viewers that actually watched our race – there were hundreds of thousands of people!
Cem Bolukbasi (Turkish F1 Esports frontrunner) will contest the GT4 European Series in 2020. What’s your goal there, what would you like to achieve?
My ultimate goal is to try myself in a real race car – that’s for sure. I don’t really have preferences, it could be anything. Of course, I won’t become a real Formula 1 driver as some of the fans have suggested. In order to become a Formula 1 driver, you need to start karting at a very young age. On the other hand, achieving good results in F1 Esports is always a good addition to your CV as it’s usually noted in lower categories. I can imagine myself racing in touring cars, for instance. We saw how Gábor Wéber or Norbert Michelisz managed to achieve that by doing a decent job in the simulator. Another advantage is that in touring cars you can win in your 50s too as Gabriele Tarquini proved it. Overall, there are some serious sponsors behind Cem, which is necessary for real racing. I’d be extremely happy if someone gave me an opportunity, but right now I’m an F1 Esports driver for Alfa Romeo and I need to concentrate on that.
I’d be extremely happy if someone gave me an opportunity, but right now I’m an F1 Esports driver for Alfa Romeo and I need to concentrate on that.
You were invited to Alfa Romeo’s Christmas party last year. How much could you talk with Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi? Did they give you some useful advice?
First, it was a fantastic evening with a great atmosphere. Of course, we did speak about racing, but not as much as you would probably expect. When we talk about simulators, they can’t really tell us anything new, albeit when it comes to real racing, they can give us very useful tips, no doubt. Kimi is a very nice guy, he’s not like the cool Iceman which he may look from the outside. He always says hi when we meet, he knows who we are. During the dinner, I talked to Kimi for around 40 minutes – it was a fascinating chat. It surprised me how much he knows about simulators; he has one at home as well, but I guess he won’t post it on Instagram. He is always a very kind person behind the cameras. I often speak to Giovinazzi as well, and he is a bit closer to my generation.
You were in Barcelona at the pre-season test. We all hope that the season kicks off soon, so what do you expect to happen in 2020?
I think this break may help Ferrari as they didn’t look competitive in Barcelona at all. Being trackside, it was easy to see that both Vettel and Leclerc had difficulties to control the car. They had massive understeer, which could be easily seen in sector three. Red Bull drivers had to face understeer at some parts of the circuit as well. On the other hand, Mercedes seems to have an excellent car once again. In my opinion, DAS is just the icing on the cake, their other secrets are probably placed somewhere else, which is not that easy to see. Then speaking about the midfield… it’s almost impossible to make predictions. Anyway, I believe that it could be one of the tightest rivalries behind the top three teams.
You took some photos during testing and it seems that you enjoy that a lot. Is photographing a leisure activity for you?
Yes, it’s my hobby, and hopefully it will be more than that in the future. I don’t have excellent equipment, but I could rent a great lens in Barcelona. I really like shooting both in the paddock and next to the track. I enjoy editing the photos as well. You can relive the moments, which is quite cool.