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Second Russell victory not enough to deny Haas Virtual Grand Prix top spot

F1 Virtual Grand Prix Sao Paulo

After two great events, the fight for victory in this Virtual Grand Prix mini-season at the start of 2021 was nearing its end. Haas F1 entered the final round, held at Sao Paulo’s Autódromo José Carlos Pace circuit, as the favourites with both Fittipaldi brothers putting in consistently strong results.

A win for Williams’ George Russell last time out at Silverstone gave the Grove-based team something to be optimistic about. With the lion’s share of $100,000 charity funds on the line, the competitors prepared to do battle.

F1 Virtual Grand Prix 2021, Sao Paulo, Pro Qualifying

From the start of the Pros’ Sprint/Qualifying Race it was an Alpine (represented with Renault colours) and Ferrari war as Nicholas Longuet looked to make strides before Brendon Leigh got into his groove. Behind the top two, Languet’s Alpine teammate Fabrizio Donoso wrestled his way past Leigh’s Ferrari counterpart David Tonizza.

Though hardly the most thrilling of races, there were more than enough smiles made up by the light-hearted banter amongst the drivers. Languet chose to embrace the common mispronunciation of his surname, whilst Red Bull’s Marcel Kiefer dressed to impress in full tuxedo attire! His teammate, Frederick Rasmussen, wasn’t feeling so dapper following contact in the rear of the field and then receiving a time penalty for speeding through the pit lane.

Despite a late charge from Leigh though, Longuet was able to put Alpine and Arnaud Tsamere on pole position for the Feature Race. Donoso and Tonizza would ensure a repeat of the front row teams whilst Alessio Di Capuo would see Willams and FlowStreet26 inside the top five.

  1. N. Longuet/A. Tsamere – Alpine
  2. B. Leigh/A. Leclerc – Ferrari
  3. F. Donoso/N. Prost – Alpine
  4. D. Tonizza/D. Beganovic – Ferrari
  5. A. di Capua/FlowStreet26 – Williams
  6. M. Kiefer/A. Albon – Red Bull
  7. J. Baldwin/N. Hamilton – McLaren
  8. J. Törmälä/L. Salvadori – Red Bull
  9. C. Thome/E.Fittipaldi – Haas
  10. J. Opmeer/J.Dixon – Mercedes
F1 Virtual Grand Prix Sao Paulo Russell

F1 Virtual Grand Prix 2021, Sao Paulo, Feature Race

Before the race had even begun there was drama with Nicholas Prost failing to make the start leaving the lone Alpine of Tsamere to fight against the two roaring Ferraris behind. His lead didn’t last long following a mega launch for Leclerc, yet the Monagasque wouldn’t have much luck in first place either after a huge miscalculation by FlowStreet saw the Spaniard fly into the back of the red car sending it around and causing a mess down the Senna ‘S’.

Through the carnage, Beganovic saw a clear path and seized the clear track ahead of him with Tsamere eager to recover behind. With Nicholas Hamilton also in the wars, George Russell somehow managed to climb eleven places from P14 on the grid to find himself in a podium place by Turn 3. Worryingly for the Williams team however, Enzo Fittipaldi had made just as significant progress up to fourth.

With his teammate in big trouble and Enzo bearing down on him, Russell was all too aware of the need to make every move count in his quest to outscore Haas. Seeing a Williams send it down the inside of Turn 1, Tsamere was helpless to keep the Brit behind. He couldn’t put his defensive mindset away with Fittipaldi wishing to stay in touch of the front two. Yet he would have good reason to feel aggrieved at just how the overtake was eventually completed; contact into Turn 8 forcing the French comedian wide.

On supersoft tyres, George Russell was flying and nothing Beganovic could do would prevent first place from ending up in his hands. Now with nobody ahead of him, it was just a case of setting a good pace and ensuring that his pit stop went smoothly. Further back, good friend Alex Albon brought his elbows out moving up to fifth place through Mercedes’ Jake Dixon.

His hopes for second place would be dashed quite early in hindsight by Fittipaldi dispensing Beganovic with great haste. The Brazilian could therefore make a good enough gap to keep Albon at bay, especially as the Red Bull driver began to accrue multiple seconds of time penalty as he did one week ago. His brother also made excellent headway over the 36 laps, the Red Bull Ring winner finding himself well within the points-paying positions with just a few laps to go.

This personal adventure which happened mostly off-camera proved to be decisive as George Russell’s seemingly inevitable victory was not enough to outscore the Fittipaldi brothers once again. This would ensure that Haas F1 prevailed in the mini-season! The Brit’s efforts were enough to take Williams third in the table but were not enough to depose Ferrari from second. Arthur Leclerc may very well have expected better if it hadn’t been for the Turn 1 incident.

F1 Virtual Grand Prix 2021, Sao Paulo, Results

  1. G. Russell – 36 Laps
  2. E. Fittipaldi
  3. A. Albon
  4. D. Beganovic
  5. P. Fittipaldi
  6. A. Leclerc
  7. J. Dixon
  8. A. Tsamere
  9. J. Broadbent
  10. L. Salvadori

F1 Virtual Grand Prix 2021, Sao Paulo, Final teams standings

  1. Haas – 85
  2. FDA Esports – 62
  3. Williams – 57
  4. Red Bull – 54
  5. Mercedes – 28

That marks the end of the 2021 Virtual Grand Prix series by Formula 1. There’s still the Challengers esports series continuing at present and then later in the year, a full-on esports pro series. You can catch all the action on Traxion.

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