In the first match of the playoffs, Lucas Blakeley, Daniele Haddad and Shanaka Clay faced Williams’s Nikodem Wisniewski, Kuba Brzezinski and Martin Štefanko across Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps.
The team immediately got off to a flying start by sealing a 1-2-3 in qualifying at both circuits, with Lucas leading Daniele and Shanaka in both sessions.
They carried the momentum into the opening Spa Relay race, but Daniele’s strong start from second was affected by contact with a Williams rival. Wanting to avoid a potential penalty, Daniele allowed his rival to move ahead before handing over the V10-powered car to team-mate Lucas.
Lucas was able to make up for lost time and move back into contention. Boosted by the joker lap, he was able to perform an undercut for the lead. Shanaka would take over for the final lap and crossed the line to give Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team a 1-0 lead.
After the earlier qualifying success, the trio locked out the top three spots on the grid, meaning Shanaka and Daniele could work together to protect polesitter Lucas at the start.
Lucas was able to charge into the distance, and Daniele followed in second, although the defensive start cost Shanaka a place.
With a result of first, second and fourth, the team took a 2-0 lead into the Silverstone double-header, knowing that another race victory would seal a semi-final place.
The Relay at Silverstone proved controversial as Daniele battled Brzezinski down the Wellington Straight on the opening lap.
Daniele got past at the exit of the corner but was hit at Luffield by his rival, costing him the lead in the process. But there was more drama to come. Through Vale, the Williams driver spun off, almost collecting Daniele as he rebounded off the Armco and back onto the track.
Daniele avoided contact and swiftly handed over to Lucas, who returned to the track with a gap of 5.8 seconds, meaning he and Shanaka could combine for a safety-first approach to the remaining laps.
Once Shanaka crossed the line, Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team took a 3-0 lead and sealed a semi-final place ahead of a thrilling finale in the Team Race.
Starting once again with a 1-2-3 lockout, Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team opted to run on the medium tyre, choosing consistency over outright pace early on.
Williams would use the soft tyre advantage to pass both Shanaka and Daniele, but Lucas had enough of a buffer to protect his lead.
But Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team’s strategy proved right late on as the medium tyre got up to temperature and Williams began to suffer degradation on their soft compounds.
Daniele, Shanaka, Stefanko and Brzezinski took up a thrilling battle across the last lap and second place was sealed at the final corner.
Shanaka had lunged ahead into the final two low-speed corners, but Stefanko refused to let up. The pair touched and ran wide as a result, as Daniele charged through on the inside to go from fourth to second,
Having ensured a 4-0 victory, the team has the momentum going into the semi-final, and Aston Martin Cognizant Esports Team is now one match away from the final.
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