Formula 1 drivers who are competing in virtual racing will have an advantage when the 2020 season begins, according to Nico Rosberg.

A number of F1 drivers, including Charles Leclerc, George Russell, Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, have been using their time off to test their skills in the virtual world of sim racing during the prolonged break enforced by the coronavirus pandemic.

F1 has arranged the Virtual Grand Prix series to act as stand-in events for the races which have been called off due to COVID-19, with Russell winning the most recent Virtual Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday to complete a hat-trick of victories.

“If I was still racing I would be in the simulator every single day, spending hours in there,” said Rosberg - who beat Lewis Hamilton to the 2016 F1 world title - during the broadcast of the race on Sunday.

“I’m convinced that it is still going to help you a tiny bit to keep training your skills.

“Imagine Roger Federer, if he didn’t train on a tennis court for like five months, on the first day back he would be nowhere, and the skill [level] for an F1 driver is the same.

“I think in the simulator you have a small chance of training some of that skill and keeping the level up, and therefore I would be maximising it.

“It’ll be interesting to see. We see some drivers are doing it more than others and I wonder whether they might have an advantage when the racing gets going again. I would bet on that: that they would have an advantage.”

In total, 11 of the current field of F1 drivers have contested some form of virtual racing. Rosberg is convinced they will reap the rewards from sharpening their skills during the extended break compared to the drivers who have not participated in sim racing.

“I remember so vividly my first outing after the winter break, and the winter break was three months long only and this is now five months, so the winter break was always much shorter,” he explained.

“And the first run out you can just feel how your capacity and your mind is just so much less, you’re just maxed out trying to drive fast, you have no capacity left to memorise things or work on the settings. You just feel rusty.

“And those guys are going to be feeling it too, so I’m sure every little bit will help, even going go-karting like Lando [Norris] is doing, and I think the guys that are really trying to do their best in preparation are really going to have an advantage.”