Charles Leclerc is the winner of the F1 Australian Virtual GP. In his first ever esports race, he claims an almost uncontested victory.
F1 Ferrari driver Chales Leclerc has won his first Virtual GP Series. The race was held as a replacement for the postponed Hanoi GP. Since the track isn’t featured in the F1 2019 game, the competition was staged at Albert Park, Melbourne, instead.
The pole position was initially claimed by Formula 2 driver Christian Lundgaard who replaced Virtual Bahrain GP winner Guanyu Zhou in the Renault cockpit. But with the Dane picking up a five-place grid penalty in qualifying, Leclerc moved to the pole position.
The Monegasque then dominated the race from the start. After 28 laps, he finished the race about ten seconds ahead of Lundgaard in second place.
Leclerc’s victory gets even more impressive given the fact he started with esports racing just last weekend: he got into it just “[e]ight days ago, last Sunday but I put quite a lot of hours into it. To tell you how much I don’t know, but probably at least five hours each day every day and at the end of the week we all linked together with George, Alex and the others and stream everything live and it was very fun so we’ll continue to do that.”
The third contestant on the podium was Williams’ George Russell, who made his esports debut in the Virtual Grand Prix. After going off track in lap eight, Russell had to fight a lot to keep his position. He managed to do so and took home his first ever F1 podium finish, even if it was just on a virtual track.
Fourth place was taken by Leclerc’s younger brother and Formula 4 pilot Arthur in the second Ferrari.
Among Leclerc and Russell, there were four more real F1 drivers competing. Antonio Giovinazzi finished the race in fifth place.
Red Bull’s Alexander Albon struggled to come back into the race after a crash in the opening lap and finished eighth in the end. Williams driver Nicholas Latifi only got tenth, just ahead of former F1 world champion and esports novice Jenson Button.
Lando Norris was facing connection issues before the race and couldn’t join the session again, which prevented the return of LandoBot to the grid.
Sim racing influencer Jimmy Broadbent once again surprised the racing elite and made an impressive run from 17th to ninth place.
The Virtual Grand Prix Series will continue in two weeks, replacing the postponed Chinese GP in Shanghai.
Image source: Codemasters