Esports round-up: Vandoorne wins Race at Home Challenge as Russell triumphs again

Keeping fans and drivers entertained over recent months as a return to real racing draws ever closer, the weekend saw the culmination of the Formula E Race at Home Challenge in support of UNICEF, as well as Veloce Esports’ popular #NotTheGP and the official F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix race.

And it was gaming enthusiast Stoffel Vandoorne who ended up victorious in the final double-header round of the Esports challenge, pipping Pascal Wehrlein to the title. It was Wehrlein who entered the final race ahead of Vandoorne on points after winning Saturday’s virtual race around the streets of New York ahead of Kevin van der Linde, Oliver Rowland, and Vandoorne.

It meant that Wehrlein held a narrow 12-point lead heading into the decider, and he started from second on the grid ahead of his title rival, as Rowland bagged pole. But it went wrong for Wehrlein from the outset, the Mahindra driver tangling with Vandoorne at the start but coming off the worse, dropping to the back of the field as Rowland disappeared into the distance.

From then on, it was a relatively trouble-free race, Vandoorne remaining unchallenged for a second-place finish that was plenty enough to secure the title, as Maximilian Guenther rounded off the podium ahead of Venturi’s Edoardo Mortara. Audi’s Sebastien Buemi was fifth from Jaguar’s James Calado, Nyck de Vries and the second Venturi of Felipe Massa, as Kelvin van der Linde and Porsche driver Andre Lotterer rounded out the top ten.

The result saw Vandoorne top the standings ahead of Wehrlein, Rowland and Guenther, as Mortara rounded out the top five in the final standings.

RUSSELL COMPLETES VIRTUAL HAT-TRICK

With real-life Formula One racing returning to Austria on July 5, Williams driver George Russell is proving the dominant force in the Esports world, taking his third successive Virtual Grand Prix victory around the streets of Baku.

Russell, who won the previous two rounds in Spain and Monaco, drove another near flawless race from pole to flag, heading home friend and fellow gaming enthusiast Alexander Albon, who picked up a three-second penalty for corner-cutting. In third place was Mercedes reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez, who achieved his second straight podium, ahead of the ever entertaining Lando Norris, Renault junior Oscar Piastri, and Haas F1 reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi.

The second Williams of Nicholas Latifi was seventh, as YouTuber Ben ‘Tiametmarduk’ Daly, Sky Sports pundit Anthony Davidson and streamer Jimmy Broadbent rounded out the top ten. But it was a disappointing race for the usually consistent Charles Leclerc, who could only qualify tenth before being collected by Ferrari teammate Enzo Fittipaldi. He eventually finished a lowly 14th after picking up 12 seconds of penalties for exceeding track-limits regulations.

BOLUKBASI WINS, NORRIS ENTERTAINS

The initiative that opened up the wonderful world of Esports to the coronavirus couch surfers was, of course, Veloce Esports’ entertaining #NotTheGP. As opposed to other Esports events, #NotTheGP pits professional racing drivers against professional gamers, giving viewers an idea about just how tough a discipline it really is.

Understandably, it’s the pro-gamers who come out on top and Saturday’s race was no exception, F1 Esports driver Cem Bolukbasi beating World’s Fastest Gamer winner James Baldwin to the flag as YouTuber Tiametmarduk rounded out the podium.

But the real-life F1 drivers are proving that practice really does make perfect, Williams’ Latifi running a strong third before being hit by Norris, the ensuing accident also collecting the unfortunate Leclerc. Latifi recovered to finish a creditable seventh but yet again arguably the star of the show was Norris, whose infectious laughter and outlandish commentary has made watching Esports a pleasure in itself.

Fraser Masefield

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.