Russell enjoying the limelight from recent Esports victories

With Esports helping to fill the competitive void in the absence of any real racing during the coronavirus pandemic, fans and drivers alike have been getting their entertainment in a different way.

One very obvious, and entertaining, benefit of Esports is the interaction that drivers can now have with one another and with their fans. We get to see their expressions, their laughter, the fun they are having, and also the moments of despair, streamed live on television and across channels such as YouTube and Twitch.

Charles Leclerc, Alexander Albon, Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris have all expressed very real pleasure from winning Esports races and now Williams driver George Russell has joined the party, winning the last two rounds of the official F1 Virtual Grand Prix events in Spain and Monaco.

“I get more publicity from winning an esports race than I got from any single Formula 1 race last year by coming around the back of the grid,” Russell told Sky Sports after his most recent win, as quoted on The Race. “I’m doing everything I can to show the people what I can do. I did that last year and I’ll try and continue to do that.”

Russell graduated to the ROKiT Williams Formula One team, partnered by Acronis, in 2019 after winning the F2 championship. And although Esports and real racing are very different disciplines, requiring different skill sets, Russell is certainly enjoying his moment in the limelight in this form of competition.

“It felt great, to be honest I forgot how much of a buzz it is, winning, and even though it’s virtually the competitive nature of myself and going up against my pals, and winning it is nice – it’s quite thrilling to be honest,” he added. “So, something I didn’t quite expect prior to all of this, when I first entered esports, so I’m definitely enjoying it at the moment.

“I first started off doing it for fun, trying to provide a bit of entertainment for the hardcore F1 fans who are missing racing and don’t have anything to support at the moment and I soon learned that the competition was high. I didn’t want to just compete to make up the numbers, I wanted to come in and try and win. And when I struggled in the first race, I thought ‘I need to turn this round and put a bit more effort in’ and here we go now.”

Fraser Masefield

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.