Nico Rosberg believes those drivers who have participated in virtual racing will hold a slight advantage when Formula 1’s season begins next month.
Formula 1 has arranged virtual events, using its official 2019 game, to run in place of grands prix that have been postponed or cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
So far 11 current Formula 1 drivers have entered at least one of the virtual events while one of the highest-profile non-participants, Max Verstappen, has been prolific elsewhere in the online world.
Formula 1’s delayed 2020 season is due to commence in Austria, on 3-5 July, with 2016 champion Rosberg suspecting those who have kept sharp in esports to get out of the box quicker.
“If I was still racing I would be in the simulator every single day, spending hours in there,” said Rosberg during the broadcast of the virtual Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday.
“I’m convinced that it is still going to help you a tiny bit to keep training your skills.
“Imagine Roger Federer, if he didn’t train on a tennis court for like five months, on the first day back he would be nowhere, and the skill [level] for an F1 driver is the same.
“I think in the simulator you have a small chance of training some of that skill and keeping the level up, and therefore I would be maximising it.
“It’ll be interesting to see. We see some drivers are doing it more than others and I wonder whether they might have an advantage when the racing gets going again. I would bet on that: that they would have an advantage.”
Speaking from his own experience of not competing during Formula 1’s off-seasons, Rosberg commented: “I remember so vividly my first outing after the winter break, and the winter break was three months long only and this is now five months, so the winter break was always much shorter.
“And the first run out you can just feel how your capacity and your mind is just so much less, you’re just maxed out trying to drive fast, you have no capacity left to memorise things or work on the settings. You just feel rusty.
“And those guys are going to be feeling it too, so I’m sure every little bit will help, even going go-karting like Lando [Norris] is doing, and I think the guys that are really trying to do their best in preparation are really going to have an advantage.”