With the 2020 Formula One World Championship on hold due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, organizers have turned to the world of Esports to keep fans entertained.
For each real round that's canceled or postponed, F1 is holding a virtual race using the Codemasters game “F1 2019.” There's a race for current F1 drivers as well as drivers from other motorsport categories and other sports, plus a race held exclusively for professional gamers.
On Sunday, a virtual Vietnamese Grand Prix was held in lieu of the real race, though with the game not featuring a circuit for the Vietnamese race (2020 was meant to be the inaugural round), the organizers used the Australian Grand Prix's Albert Park instead.
The first race of the day included current F1 drivers Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, Lando Norris of McLaren, Alex Albon of Red Bull Racing, George Russell of Williams, Antonio Giovinazzi of Alfa Romeo, and Williams rookie Nicholas Latifi. They were joined by some past drivers including 2009 world champion Jenson Button and former McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne, as well as some celebrities.
Leclerc started the race on pole and managed to keep the lead into the first turn after which he immediately pulled away from the group. Leclerc still led after the pit stops and began to put in consistent lap times, which saw him move still further ahead. He eventually crossed the line first, followed by Formula Three driver Christian Lundgaard in second and Russel in third. Unfortunately Norris was kicked out at the start of the race due to a system error.
Impressively, Leclerc said he only started playing the game eight days ago, but had been spending around five hours per day practicing.
In the race for professional gamers, Frederik Rasmussen finished first followed by David Tonizza in second and Flors Wijers third.
Most major motorsport events around the globe have been affected by the coronavirus. In the case of F1, the first race of the 2020 season is expected to be held in late May. You can view our evolving list of canceled or postponed events here.