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Esports

Russell braves Albon challenge to take victory in British Virtual Grand Prix

Formula 1 Virtual GP Silverstone

Though it’s 2021 season looks to be mostly back to normal proceedings, Formula 1 continues to maintain its presence in the virtual scene not just with the F1 Esports Series, but with the highly entertaining Virtual Grand Prix. On February 7th, stars and pros alike took to Codemasters’ F1 2020 rendition of the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit for an evening packed with entertainment – all with eyes on a share of the $100,000 charity prize pool to be awarded.

F1 Virtual Grand Prix 2021, Silverstone, Qualifying

The Pros’ Sprint/Qualifying Race got off to a rip-roaring start with Haas F1’s Floris Wijers spinning into the entrance of Village. Two times F1 esports champion and recently acquired Ferrari driver Brendan Leigh made inroads to pass the Williams of Alessio di Capua. A hairy moment through Maggots and Becketts almost saw a huge off for the man qualifying as stand in for Nicholas Latifi.

The second lap brought more excitement of a cleaner variety through Village and The Loop as Di Capua’s teammate, Alvaro Carreton, put on a stormer of a move that began around the outside of the latter corner and ended around the outside into Brooklands. An overtake that his successor for the Grand Prix, George Russell, would have been delighted with.

Throughout this time, it was Red Bull’s Marcel Kiefer heading the way but his lead would not survive the race as Leigh pounced into Brooklands on lap four to wrestle the Grand Prix Pole Position away from the German. Fellow Brit Calum Ilott was to take control of the car for the main event.

  1. Brendon Leigh, Ferrari – racing for Arthur Leclerc
  2. Marcel Kiefer, Red Bull – racing for Alex Albon
  3. Dani Bereznay, Alfa Romeo – racing for Thibaut Courtois
  4. James Baldwin, McLaren – racing for Benjamin Daly
  5. Alvaro Carreton, Williams – racing for George Russell
  6. Simon Weigang, Alfa Romeo – racing for Jack ‘Pie Face’ McDermott
  7. Joni Tormala, AlphaTauri – racing for Vitantonio Liuzzi 
  8. Josh Idowu, McLaren – racing for Jimmy Broadbent
  9. Samuel Libeert, Haas – racing for Pietro Fittipaldi

F1 Virtual Grand Prix 2021, Silverstone, Feature Race

With lights out the start could not have been much worse for the McLaren boys of Benjamin Daly and Jimmy Broadbent who both found early strife and ejection from the top ten – the latter’s steering wheel failing off the start. A mix of strategies for the front runners produced incredible results early on as pole-sitter Ilott steamed away on the soft compound tyres and Real Madrid goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, pulled an exquisite move on Alex Albon who began his race on the mediums.

The Thai driver would attempt to retake second into Village on lap two, however, in trying to force the issue opened the door to good friend George Russell. The Brit made short work of the situation and settled into third behind Courtois. This was not for long as the following lap he pulled a stunner on the Belgian down the inside of Brooklands and then around the outside of Luffield. On the backfoot, Thibaut’s time in the sun was over as Albon dashed through the inside of Stowe to make it a professional driver 1-2-3.

The two Fittipaldi brothers also looked in fine form after their excellent races during round one, though were hampered by poor starting positions. Both Red Bull Ring winner Pietro and then Enzo made smart work of Courtois in the following laps as the race continued into its groove. The question heading toward mid-race was who had made the right call on strategy?

The answer would transpire to be those who were running the medium compound Pirellis. Though Ilott maintained track position initially as the pit stop phase continued, soon he found himself under huge pressure from two of F1’s youngest stars. By Lap 19 it was a straight fight between Russell and Albon for the win.

To further aid the Brit, Albon had picked up a 3-second time penalty mid-race for extensive track limits abuse and thus had a mountain to climb. Even though he was comfortably underneath that margin, Russell wanted to win on track however and snatched the lead with a DRS-assisted pass on the Hangar Straight with two and a half laps to go.

Despite knowing that victory was out of his hands, Albon showed great courage and tenacity to wrestle back P1 on track on the final lap no less; crossing the line first ahead of his long-time rival. Russell would claim glory nonetheless as, post-penalty, he was the clear winner by just under three seconds.

F1 Virtual Grand Prix 2021, Silverstone, Results

  1. George Russell
  2. Alex Albon
  3. Callum Ilott
  4. Pietro Fittipaldi
  5. Enzo Fittipaldi
  6. Liam Lawson
  7. Nicholas Latifi
  8. Robert Shwartzman
  9.  Ben Daly
  10. Luca Salvadori

Looking Forward

A strong Haas result for the Fittipaldi brothers sees the American team establish a stronghold going into the finale, some 15 points ahead of the Ferrari Driver Academy Esports team. Despite a double top ten finish including a win for Williams, they still aren’t able to overturn Red Bull in third with Liam Lawson crucially beating Nicholas Latifi.

Valentines Day will hopefully see more love of F1 Esports develop at the Virtual GP ‘Finale’ at Interlagos!

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