Another action-packed weekend of Esports racing reached a dramatic climax on Sunday as Alexander Albon and Charles Leclerc engaged in a titanic wheel-to-wheel finish at the official F1 virtual grand prix at Interlagos.
After pole-sitter Stoffel Vandoorne suffered a nightmare start, dropping several places down the field, the race soon developed into a tactical battle between the two young F1 stars, with George Russell waiting for an opportunity in third place.
The lead then changed place several times over the closing laps, the pair trading brilliant overtakes before Albon took the chequered flag just ahead of the Ferrari, although a penalty for abuse of track limits promoted Russell’s Williams to third post-race.
Friendship 🤝 Sportsmanship @Alex_Albon 🤝 @Charles_Leclerc #RaceAtHome #VirtualGP pic.twitter.com/6zYnbSF6hN
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 3, 2020
It was a highly entertaining affair, with cricketers Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes also enjoying a taste of the F1 action. For England World Cup hero Stokes, it was his second race in the series and, having clearly put in several hours of practice in his F1 rig, it was an impressive showing as he held world rally legend Petter Solberg at bay for a long period, before eventually finishing 13th just behind the Norwegian.
For Leclerc, it was another example of just how good a driver he is, whatever the format, as the Monegasque won two other Esports events prior to the F1 showpiece event. Brother Arthur proved that a love for Esports runs in the family, winning both races in the inaugural Formula 2 Esports event.
CONTROVERSY IN INDIANAPOLIS
Another driver who is proving to be one of the stars of the Esports world during lockdown is Lando Norris, the McLaren ace winning his maiden IndyCar challenge at the Circuit of the Americas last time out.
Clearly, some drivers were not prepared to let the young F1 upstart win back-to-back races in their series, and when Simon Pagenaud found himself several laps down having pitted for repairs, he decided he was going to have some fun.
With Norris looking set for victory, the decision was made to ‘take Lando out’, and that’s exactly what the Frenchman did, creating a stream of social media opinion and raising questions over whether gaming during lockdown is just a bit of fun for the drivers, or should be taken just as seriously as the real thing, considering that Esports has a huge following and is a big industry in its own right.
With 8 laps to go and fresher tyres for @LandoNorris, this move was on. I think there’s some IndyCar snobbery being directed at the F1 guy if any of the drivers and spotters want to criticise this – or in the case of Pagenaud, think it warrants petty retribution pic.twitter.com/FrblAhCUTk
— Glenn Freeman (@glennfreeman39) May 3, 2020
One thing that is for sure is that Norris enjoys this kind of format, is a keen gamer, and loves sharing his experiences with his fans over his Twitch profile.
“Do you know how many fricking hours I put into driving the lefts? Trying to perfect it with the most delicate touch,” said Norris. I’ve tried doing it fricking one handed, I’ve tried doing it with my knee, driving like this… Twenty-four hours, and then cos that guy gets a bit salty that a non-IndyCar driver is about to win an Indy race… just ruins it.”
"A guy gets a bit salty that a non-IndyCar driver is about to win an Indy race."
Lando Norris was not happy on Twitch with Simon Pagenaud after he was taken out by Pagenaud while Norris was leading near the end of Saturday's #INDYCARChallenge. pic.twitter.com/10Ve4aJl6m
— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) May 3, 2020
GUENTHER STARS AGAIN AT NEW VIRTUAL FORMULA E LAYOUT
There was also drama aplenty during the second points-scoring round of the Formula E Race at Home challenge as 11 cars failed to make the finish at the newly created Esports Electric Docks circuit.
This time, all 24 Formula E drivers took to the field but again, as with the last two races, it quickly appeared that Stoffel Vandoorne and Maximilian Guenther would be the drivers to beat. It was Vandoorne who again took pole, but a bad start dropped him to fourth as chaos ensued behind, with multiple contacts into the tricky opening chicane.
It left experienced gamer Guenther in the lead of the race and in a battle for the win with Pascal Wehrlein, before that troublesome chicane caught out the Mahindra Racing driver on the final lap, leaving Robin Frijns to inherit second, ahead of Dragon Racing’s Nico Mueller and the Porsche of Neel Jani. After his early woes, Vandoorne crossed the line in fifth ahead of NIO 333 driver Oliver Turvey and Nyck de Vries. James Calado recovered from a collision with Jaguar teammate Mitch Evans to take eighth as Jean-Eric Vergne and Wehrlein rounded off the points scoring finishers.
*That* chicane 🙈 Highlights from a typically entertaining #RaceAtHome battle featuring your favourite Formula E drivers!
DONATE TO UNICEF! https://t.co/9KqVKEr3qA #ABBFormulaE pic.twitter.com/JQN3zBLICs
— ABB Formula E (@FIAFormulaE) May 2, 2020