Difficult races for Leclerc, Gasly and Perez but Russell shines again in penultimate Virtual GP before F1’s return next month
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 07/06/20 8:04pm
George Russell sealed a hat-trick of Virtual GP victories by defeating Formula 1 rival Alex Albon in the online Azerbaijan GP, with Charles Leclerc struggling in the Ferrari and finishing behind footballer Thibaut Courtois.
The frenzied Baku streets have played host to many chaotic F1 races and the first lap of Sunday’s virtual affair hinted at more of the same, but Russell managed to avoid the carnage before stretching his lead from pole to seal his third win in a row – and leapfrog Leclerc as the series’ most successful driver.
Albon, the Red Bull driver who has one Virtual GP victory to his name, was Russell’s closest challenger throughout but a late penalty ensured it was his fellow young Brit who came out on top in the Williams.
“I’m definitely going to want more of this when we get back to the real world,” said Russell. “But I can’t guarantee that!”
Mercedes reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez completed the podium, while Lando Norris enjoyed his best online race as he finished fourth for McLaren.
Russell’s win, secured on medium tyres as Albon opted for hards, helps him build on his growing reputation ahead of F1’s restart next month, with Toto Wolff admitting he’s a contender for a Mercedes seat in 2021.
What happened to Leclerc, Gasly, and Perez?
Leclerc has been one of the most consistently fast drivers in the eSports series but struggled to get going in Baku, where he infamously crashed in qualifying last year. He only managed 10th on the grid and then was caught up in a big major collision with Pierre Gasly, who was making his debut in the series and qualified seventh.
Three separate time penalties and two pit-stops followed for Leclerc, who would finish the race in 14th and two places behind Courtois – the Real Madrid goalkeeper.
Sergio Perez, who like Gasly (11th) was racing virtually for the first time, also struggled in 15th.
Instead, the top 10 was completed by several young drivers, Nicholas Latifi, two YouTubers, and Sky F1’s very own Anthony Davidson – who had a memorable battle with Lando Norris.
Courtois, meanwhile, was the fastest of the footballers in action again, with AC Milan stopper Gianluigi Donnarumma 16th and Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte running at the back.
The Azerbaijan GP is the penultimate virtual official F1 race this season, with an online Canadian GP next weekend closing off the series before the F1 2020 season starts on July 5.
That winning feeling for George Russell
“I’m popping the champagne – this is like a win for me!”
Virtual Azerbaijan GP result
1. George Russell, Williams
2. Alex Albon, Red Bull
3. Esteban Gutierrez, Mercedes
4. Lando Norris, McLaren
5. Oscar Piastri, Renault
6. Pietro Fittipaldi, Haas
7. Nicholas Latifi, Williams
8, Ben ‘Tiametmarduk’ Daly, McLaren
9. Anthony Davidson, Mercedes
10. Jimmy Broadbent, Racing Point