Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc stormed to a comprehensive victory in Formula 1’s Virtual Vietnam Grand Prix on his Esports debut.

The F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series is filling the void with the global coronavirus pandemic putting a halt on all major sporting events worldwide, including the start of the 2020 F1 season which has been delayed until June at the very earliest.

Due to the F1 2019 video game not having the Hanoi track that was due to hold the Vietnam Grand Prix this weekend, the virtual race was instead run around Melbourne’s Albert Park Street Circuit, the home of the Australian Grand Prix.

Leclerc inherited pole position after Renault junior Christian Lundgaard, who had topped a competitive qualifying session, received a five-place grid drop for abusing track limits.

The Monegasque driver made the perfect start and pulled clear into a comfortable early lead, which he maintained throughout on his way to victory on what marked his first F1 Esports appearance in the Virtual Grand Prix series.

Leclerc finished nearly 15 seconds clear of Lundgaard, with Williams driver George Russell completing the podium on his F1 2019 debut.

Leclerc’s younger brother had been running as high as second in the early stages but a pair of mistakes dropped him down the order before he recovered to fourth in the second Ferrari, ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, who finished fifth on his Esports debut.

Stoffel Vandoorne was sixth for Mercedes, ahead of the lead Haas of Louis Deletraz and Red Bull’s Alexander Albon, while sim racer Jimmy Broadbent and Pietro Fittipaldi rounding out the ‘points paying positions’ in ninth and 10th for Racing Point and Haas.

Nicholas Latifi was 11th for Williams, while Jenson Button finished 12th on his return to action with McLaren, with pro motorcycle rider Luca Salvadori leading AlphaTauri teammate Nunzio Todisco in 13th.

V8 Supercars ace Andre Heimgartner took 15th ahead of Anthony Davidson, who this time did join the correct race in his virtual Racing Point.

Johnny Herbert avoided his corner cutting antics from the Bahrain round during a lonely run to 17th, with England cricket star Ben Stokes left stumped at the back of the order on his first outing for Red Bull.

As with the opening Bahrain round, the virtual race did not run without problems, as server issues prevented McLaren’s Lando Norris from taking the start, while Mercedes development driver Esteban Gutierrez was also missing.

In his frustration of not being able to compete for the second race in a row, Norris was seen uninstalling his F1 2019 game during his live Twitch stream.

A peak of over 190,000 people tuned in to watch Formula 1’s official livestream of the event on YouTube.

A Virtual Grand Prix will take place each weekend of the equivalent F1 race that was scheduled before the postponements, with the Vietnamese and Dutch rounds run virtually at different circuits due to the new tracks not being available on the F1 2019 video game.

The next official virtual race, the Chinese Grand Prix, will take place on April 19.

 

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