The six regular Formula 1 drivers who took part in the last Virtual Grand Prix will return to action for this weekend’s Chinese Virtual Grand Prix, including debut winner Charles Leclerc for Ferrari.

After securing only two F1 drivers for its inaugural Esports race, the sport was able to bolster its ranks with George Russell, Alex Albon, Antonio Giovinazzi and Leclerc joining the action with Lando Norris and Nicholas Latifi. Leclerc claimed a debut victory at the Virtual Vietnamese Grand Prix run on Australia’s Albert Park circuit as the F1 2019 game did not have the new circuit.

The same six have been retained for this weekend’s third instalment of the Esports series, the Chinese Virtual Grand Prix, which will be run on the same date the actual Chinese GP was set to take place before the coronavirus crisis suspended the season.

With Max Verstappen, a regular Esports and sim racer in other series, still refusing to take part in the F1 version, Red Bull has called upon Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to become Albon’s temporary teammate after English cricketer Ben Stokes competed for Red Bull last time out.

“I am really happy to be racing this Sunday in the Virtual GP alongside Alex Albon for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and to be part of the Red Bull Esports family,” Courtois, who is a regular competitor in other Esports racing series, said.

“They’ve shared some tips with me and helped me train over the last few weeks so I’m now really looking forward to the race.

“I love the game, I’ve faced Alex a few times already on track and racing against other F1 drivers is pretty awesome. Practice over the last few weeks has seen me always around the middle of the grid so I’m hoping to get in to the points.”

At Ferrari, Leclerc is joined by Academy Driver and F2 star Callum Ilott with the rest of the Chinese Virtual Grand Prix grid to be confirmed in the coming days.

The race will take place on the Shanghai International Circuit starting at an earlier time of 18:00 BST on Sunday April 19, with a qualifying session deciding the grid before a 28-lap race.

The F1 Virtual Grand Prix will be supplemented by the launch of the F1 Esports Series China Championship with a pre-event, while an F1 Pro Exhibition race will also precede the main race at 17:00 BST.

All Esports races will be broadcast live on F1’s social media channels and by selected television broadcasters.

 

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