Charles Leclerc dominated the second VirtualGP for Ferrari in his maiden appearance in the official Formula 1 Esports series, heading Renault F1 junior Christian Lundgaard by six seconds.
The race, held over 29 laps, as contested around the Albert Park circuit in Australia by virtue of the all-new Vietnam Formula 1 venue – which should have taken place this weekend but was postponed as a result of Covid-19 – not being included in the F1 2019 game.
The grid saw the largest contingent of contemporary F1 drivers seen across the official virtual F1 series so far, with seasoned challengers Lando Norris and Nicholas Latifi being joined by Ferrari race winner Leclerc, Red Bull pilot Alex Albon, Williams racer George Russell as well as Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovanazzi.
Joining them on the virtual grid also was 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button, while Haas F1 testers Pietro Fittipaldi and Louis Deletraz as well as Arthur Leclerc -brother of Charles and part of the Ferrari Junior programme – also took part.
Several other big names taking to the track included Ben Stokes – part of the England Cricket squad that won the ’19 Cricket World Cup – who made his VirtualGP debut alongside fellow newcomer Andre Heimgartner from the Australian Supercars series, while current Mercedes Formula E driver Stoffel Vandoorne made his return alongside Esteban Gutierrez.
Defending race winner Guanyu Zhou skipped this event, being replaced by fellow Renault Junior Lundgaard.
Leclerc made a lightning start from pole after original pole-sitter Lundgaard receieved a five-place grid penalty for an incident in qualifying, the Ferrari man leading Russell by over a second after only a handful of turns.
The Monegasque was able to edge away from the rest across the opening tours, building a 1.7 second margin before Russell made a mistake at Turn 1.
This afforded Arthur Leclerc second while Lundgaard snatched third, dropping Russell down to fourth.
Lundgaard eventually managed to pass Arthur for second at around a thirds distance, diving around the outside at Turn 1. He made the move stick, but a dose of minor contact caused Leclerc to spin, dropping him to fifth.
Now in clean air, the ’20 ART F2 driver managed to stem the gap between him and the race leading Charles, at times nibbling back time on the Ferrari.
He was ultimately unable to sustain the pace though, dropping to over ten seconds behind the dominant Leclerc as he crossed the line, with Russell capping a strong performance to round out the podium positions just three seconds down on the Danish pilot.
Russell decided to go against the grain of the leading drivers and switched to the Medium compound tyres at his only pit-stop, while his rivals decided on Hards.
While unable to seriously challenge the leading duo, the softer rubber allowed him to comfortably head the recovering Arthur – who spun a second time while trying to catch the podium men – in fourth.
Giovinazzi managed to fend off the charging Medium-shod Vandoorne across the closing laps to claim sixth, while Deletraz recovered from his own pair of spins to take seventh.
Albon – who was running third on the opening lap before spinning spectacularly on the exit of Turn 12 – was only able to recover to eighth ahead of YouTube star Jimmy Broadbent, while Latifi took the flag in a difficult race for the Canadian in tenth.
Button managed a solid 11th overall as the sole McLaren in the contest due to Lando Norris disconnecting before the race even began.
Stokes struggled to make an impression against the professional drivers and closed out the race as the final classified finisher behind three-time grand prix winner Johnny Herbert, while ’14 World Endurance champion Anthony Davidson managed to get the better of Heimgartner for 15th position.
|5||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo|
|8||Alexander Albon||Red Bull|
|9||Jimmy Broadbent||Racing Point|
|15||Anthony Davidson||Racing Point|
|17||Johnny Herbert||Alfa Romeo|
|18||Ben Stokes||Red Bull|