Esports round-up: Williams celebrates virtual Le Mans 24h and Canadian GP double

As a return to all forms of racing proper edges ever closer in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Esports initiatives that have kept fans and drivers entertained is gradually winding down.

On the weekend that was supposed to play host to the historic 24 Hours of the Le Mans, the virtual race, Organised by WEC, Automobile Club de l’Ouest and Motorsport Games, took centre stage. And it was the #1 Rebellion Williams Esports entry that eventually came home victorious, fighting from eighth on the grid to win from the pole-sitting ByKolles entry and the sister #13 Rebellion Williams coming home in third place.

Making the virtual Le Mans a real team battle of professional gamers and drivers, the team stints were split between the gamers and drivers, sim racers Nikodem Wisniewski and Kuba Brzezinski joining factory Mercedes GT driver Raffaele Marciello and Haas Formula 1 reserve Louis Deletraz in the Rebellion Williams winning effort.

It looked for a long time that it would be a 1-2 for the Rebellion Williams team after the ByKolles car was hampered by a jump-start penalty and broken simulator during the second half of the race. But actual ByKolles pilot Tom Dillmann produced a strong final stint to allow Esports master Jernej Simoncic to pass the second Rebellion Williams of Michael Romandis in a gripping finish.

In a field littered with stars of endurance and single-seat racing, two-time Formula E champion and Veloce Esports co-founder Jean-Eric Vergne was fifth in the Veloce Esports #24 car that also featured Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly. But there was no joy for real-life Le Mans 24h winner Fernando Alonso, who could only manage 17th place after receiving a penalty for a collision with Simona de Silvestro.

Russell proves king of the F1 Esports drivers

Shortly after the Rebellion Williams team were celebrating victory in the endurance event, it was the turn of the dominant George Russell to see if he could make it four wins out of four in the final Virtual Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

After his previous victories in Monaco, Spain and Azerbaijan, Russell was almost certain of winning the title whatever came to pass, and that was confirmed when only possible rival Charles Leclerc skipped the decider to focus on the virtual Le Mans 24h.

It would not have made a difference anyway as Russell, who was a novice to sim racing before receiving his own rig at the start of the challenge, yet again proved unstoppable, leading from pole to flag to win by over six seconds from gaming fan Alexander Albon, who suffered internet connection troubles and a corner-cutting penalty.

Mercedes’ Esteban Gutierrez rounded off the podium after the second Williams of Nicholas Latifi crashed out whilst contesting third, allowing Renault junior driver Caio Collet to take fourth ahead of F1 YouTuber Ben ‘Tiametmarduk’ Daly.

“It’s been great, it’s kept us busy, kept us entertained, that’s for sure,” Russell is quoted on the official F1 website. “And it’s kept the competitive side of us busy and interested. We don’t have racing to go out and do at the moment and having this opportunity to race against all of us, our mates, it’s been great fun along the way.

“And from my side, I put a lot of hard work and effort in and I’m glad I’ve got some good results to show for it.”

Motorsport Technology