Leclerc holds off Albon for win in Virtual Chinese GP
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc made it back-to-back Virtual GP victories on Sunday after an epic race-long battle with F1 Red Bull rival Alex Albon around the Shanghai circuit.
Leclerc took pole ahead of Williams F1 driver George Russell, who was furious to receive a five-place grid drop for illegal blocking in qualifying.
Albon pushed Leclerc hard throughout F1's third official Esports race, even undercutting him in the pits, but it was the Monegasque who came out on top after a risky overtake into Turn One, nudging Albon aside for another race win.
Leclerc dive-bombed Albon down the inside at Turn 1 on Lap 11 and the pair continued to bang wheels as they ran side-by-side through Turn 2, before Leclerc got his nose ahead coming out of Turn 3 to reclaim a lead he never again relinquished.
Second place marked Albon's first podium in the series, with ex-F1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne triumphing on the road in a race-long battle with Bahrain Virtual GP winner Guanyu Zhou for third place.
However, a five-second penalty for track limits abuse for Vandoorne handed Renault junior Zhou third place at his virtual home race.
Vandoorne's penalty also promoted Russell into fourth place. Another ex-F1 driver, Vandoorne's Mercedes teammate Esteban Gutierrez finished in sixth ahead of Formula 2 racer Louis Deletraz.
"I didn’t crash this time which was the main thing, but of course it’s always good to get on the podium, even if it’s virtual," said Albon.
"I kept it on the black stuff but Charles got the better of me – he’s been very quick. Obviously I am disappointed though so it’s back to the drawing board for the next round! My new teammate Thibaut is so fast, he’s been practicing with me quite a bit and when we first started testing around China, he was quicker than me so I was getting worried about my job!
"We even did team tactics and he held up Charles for a couple of corners behind me so it was good fun and we had a lot of laughs. I’m enjoying the sim racing – obviously it’s not the real thing but to keep the time ticking over it’s been really good and I’ve enjoyed it.
"Compared with football and basketball which has games like FIFA and NBA, racing is one of the only sports where you can actually keep active in a pretty realistic way so I do love it. I also sweat more during the virtual races than I do in real life, so I’ll be needing a towel for next time!"
Charles Leclerc was once again in dominant form in the 15 minute session used to set the grid for the Virtual Chinese GP, taking a second consecutive pole position ahead of Alex Albon in the Red Bull. Unfortunately, Callum Ilott encountered traffic and had to settle for twelfth on the grid.
Pro Exhibition Race
First to tackle the Shanghai track in virtual form were the professional sim drivers, who had to contend with torrential rain during qualifying. David Tonizza secured a place on the second row, just beaten by the former world champion in this category, Brandon Leigh (Mercedes) and the winner of the Vietnam Virtual GP, Frederik Rasmussen (Red Bull).
As for Enzo Bonito, he had to settle for ninth place on the fifth row. The race was run in the dry and David did not get the best of starts, dropping two places, while Enzo moved up to eighth, getting past Marcel Kiefer (AlphaTauri). Bonito was the first of the FDA Hublot Esports Team to pit and change tires on lap 4, with Tonizza coming in next time round, both men switching from the Soft to the Medium compound.
Once the compulsory pit stops were completed, Leigh, Rasmussen, Dani Bereznay (Alfa Romeo) and “Tonzilla” were all within one second of one another, while Bonito was seventh behind Daniele Haddad (Racing Point). Soon after, Alvaro Carreton, benefiting from new Soft tires managed to pass Tonizza, who in turn got ahead of Bereznay to take fourth place. Bonito finished seventh.
Virtual Chinese Grand Prix Results
Feedback can be sent to email@example.com
Go to our forums to discuss this article