George Russell dominated a crash-filled Formula 1 Monaco VirtualGP to make it back-to-back wins in the series, heading Esteban Gutierrez by nearly 40 seconds.
The Monaco Grand Prix circuit in Monte Carlo was the venue for this week’s VirtualGP, in place of the real Monegasque event that would ordinarily have taken place this weekend if not for Covid-19.
Damage was switched off for all drivers in order to make things easier, although this allowed them to take more liberties as regards to using the walls to carry more corner speed, giving the race less of a professional feel relative to previous contests.
This didn’t stop Russell though, who dominated the 39-lap race to claim his second consecutive Virtual GP victory, following his Spanish GP success just a couple of weeks ago.
The Williams racer qualified a strong second behind dominant pole-man Pietro Fittipaldi’s Haas, the Brazillian managing a time nearly half-a-second quicker than anyone else in the sodden conditions that graced the Monaco circuit in qualifying.
Russell was quickly able to snatch the lead away from Fittipaldi as he made a slow start though, quickly making good his escape as both Arthur Leclerc and David Schumacher also passed the Haas on the opening lap.
Leclerc managed to pressure Russell for the first few tours, the Ferrari junior using the extra grip from his soft rubber relative to Russell’s mediums to try and wrestle the lead away.
The Ferrari’s tyres soon began to give up though, allowing Russell to quickly charge away into the distance, building a near-five second lead before Leclerc’s stop on the eighth tour.
Russell was untouchable from here-on-in as the drivers behind battled on differing strategies, lapping consistently out in front until his pit-stop with just a quart of the race remaining for a new set of soft tyres.
He duly banged in several fastest laps across the closing stages to take the chequered flag over 39 seconds clear of second-placed Esteban Gutierrez, the Mercedes F1 tester taking his best VirtualGP result to date-the Mexican utilising a two-stop strategy to defeat Charles Leclerc in the closing laps.
Leclerc moved into third after he made an opportunistic pass on the struggling Schumacher into Portier after just a few laps, but struggled thereafter to make an impression on Russell and brother Arthur ahead.
He followed his Ferrari team-mate into the pits several laps later, using his fresher rubber and the traffic ahead to eventually catch up and join the battle for the runners-up spot just prior to mid-distance.
His efforts were helped by a spectacular crash between Arthur and Norris into Sainte Devote, the McLaren ace out-braking himself and wiping out the innocent Ferrari, dropping the pair to seventh and eighth respectively.
Charles then found himself second after Fittipaldi made his one and only stop late in the race, but was defenceless against the rapid Gutierrez on his fresh rubber towards the end, ultimately settling for third despite picking up several track-limits infringements-much like most of the field.
Arthur eventually crossed the line following his older in fourth, though dropped to fifth, behind Red Bull racer Alexander Albon, once a penalty was applied.
Albon first dropped back as he tried to pass both Gutierrez and Schumacher into Tabac early on, getting spun around and dropping several positions in the process as Gutierrez found himself with nowhere to go with cars on either side of him.
Fittipaldi took advantage of his late stop to clinch sixth ahead of Norris, while Nicholas Latifi came home a lonely eighth in the second Williams machine.
Louis Deletraz and Schumacher completed the top ten for Haas and Racing Point respectively, albeit a lap down on race winner Russell.
Valtteri Bottas meanwhile lost out on a top ten position on the final lap as Schumacher managed to pass him, the Finn another caught out in a crash early on after making a strong start from within the top ten, which marked a decent showing in his first VirtualGP outing.
Failing to finish was Sauber racer Antonio Giovanazzi once again, as well as Renault’s Esteban Ocon who struggled for speed as he made his own debut in the series.