Leclerc Second as George Russell Win’s Virtual Spanish GP

Charles runner-up in the Virtual Spanish GP

Charles Leclerc finished second in the Virtual Spanish GP run on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while his team-mate, the FDA (Ferrari Driver Academy) coach Antonio Fuoco, came ninth. The Pro Exhibition Race proved to be a tough one for David Tonizza and Enzo Bonito.

Qualifying. In qualifying, the two FDA Hublot Esports Team drivers monopolised the second row, with Charles third and Antonio fourth. On the front row were George Russell (Williams) and Esteban Gutierrez (Mercedes).

The race. When the lights went out, Leclerc was very aggressive, fighting Russell and managing to get past him between turns 2 and 3. Alex Albon (Red Bull) also managed to get past the pole man, but not soon enough to get a tow off the Monegasque, because by then, Charles had already overtaken Gutierrez on the main straight to go into the lead. Stuck behind the Mercedes, Albon switched stragegy, making his first pit stop on lap three, rejoining on another set of medium tyres. Meanwhile, it did not take Russell long to get ahead of Gutierrez and chase after Charles.

Pit-stop. Leclerc and Russell pitted for tyres on laps 9 and 10 respectively, emerging behind Albon who was unable to pull out enough of a lead to make his strategy work by staying with the leaders after his second stop. In fact, having built a lead of only 5 seconds, he rejoined around 15 seconds behind Russell and Leclerc, who were putting on a great show. The Englishman passed the Monegasque on lap 26, Charles retaking the lead next time round, but the Williams was back in the lead on lap 28. In the end, with slightly fresher rubber, Russell pushed like crazy in trying to pull out at least a 3 second lead over Charles, given that he had a time penalty for not respecting track limits. In fact, as he pushed on, Leclerc ended up with the same penalty, leaving his rival to take a maiden Virtual GP win. Leclerc was second ahead of Gutierrez. Fuoco made just a single pit stop and found himself in traffic, after which he fought like a lion, but in the end he had to settle for ninth place. 

Pro Exhibition. As usual, getting the action started was the race for professional sim racers in which the FDA Hublot Esports Team crew struggled more than expected. Only in the dying seconds of qualifying did David Tonizza manage to  move into the mid-field and secure eleventh place. Unfortunately, Enzo Bonito was unable to improve and had to settle for 19th place on the starting grid.

The race.  When the lights went out, Bonito got off the line really well, moving up from 19th to 16th, before dropping one place to 17th come the end of the opening lap, after being re-passed by Fabrizio Donoso in the Renault. Tonizza had a tricky opening lap, dropping three places. Given the situation, the two FDA Hublot Esports Team drivers opted for a completely different strategy to the rest of the field, going longer than any other drivers in the opening stint, with the aim of finishing the race on the attack, making the most of the soft tyres. At the flag, the win went to Frederik Rasmussen (Red Bull) while Tonizza and Bonito finished 14th and 16th respectively.

Tale of the Race: George Russell snatches victory from Charles Leclerc right at the death.

Russell had sealed pole position for the race at the virtual Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya but had a terrible start, losing out to second-place man Esteban Gutierrez in the Mercedes and then Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc who pulled off a brilliant move round the outside of the Williams into turn one.

By the end of lap one Russell was down in fifth and looked like he had it all to do. Leclerc then took the lead from Gutierrez on the following lap with a move into Turn 1, and by Lap 4, Alex Albon was up to second.

It looked like we might be set for a repeat of last week’s incredible battle, but Albon pitted for tyres on the follwowing lap as he tried a different strategy to Leclerc that ultimately failed to pan out for the Red Bull man who eventually finished fourth.

Leclerc may have thought he was sitting pretty but on Lap 20 George Russell pumped in the fastest lap of the race up until that point and suddenly found himself closing rapidly on his Ferrari rival.

Five laps later he overtook Leclerc for the lead on track, but he already had a three-second time penalty for track limits infractions.

All Leclerc had to do was stay within three seconds of the Williams and his third Virtual Grand Prix victory would be assured, but then with just a lap to go in the race, Leclerc himself was slapped with a three-second penalty of his own, and Russell was able to cruise to the line to take the win.

The race was another terrific battle with the result up for grabs right up until the final few seconds of the race.

“I am feeling ecstatic, I’m not used to this winning thing – I’ve not done it for a long, long time. I’ve dearly missed it,” Russell said after the race.

“When I got passed Charles and I knew I had that three second penalty I was pretty furious but when that radio message came in at the end and I heard he had the three second penalty I was almost wetting my pants,” he added.

*Thanks to F1.com for the above esports comments


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