Williams Formula 1 duo George Russell and Nicholas Latifi headline the return of the Virtual Grand Prix series, with the first event taking place later today.

Russell starred during the inaugural Virtual Grand Prix series which filled in for real-world racing when it was put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic outbreak in 2020, with the Briton scoring four virtual victories as he took home the unofficial crown.

This weekend sees the return of the popular Esports event, with the Virtual Austrian Grand Prix kicking off a mini three-round pre-season championship.

Russell and teammate Latifi are the only two current F1 drivers taking part in the first round, which begins at 6pm GMT on Sunday 31 January.

Red Bull reserve driver Alex Albon also returns to the series after tasting victory in last year’s Virtual Brazilian Grand Prix, alongside Red Bull KTM factory rider and MXGP world champion, Jeffrey Herlings.

Pietro Fittipaldi, who made his F1 debut with Haas as stand in for the injured Romain Grosjean for the final two races of the 2020 season, returns to action for the American team, this time in the virtual world. He will be joined at Haas by younger brother and F3 racer Enzo.

Former F1 drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Anthony Davidson will be competing for Mercedes, while Vitantonio Liuzzi is in action for AlphaTauri.

Formula 2 race winner Christian Lundgaard and reigning Formula 3 champion Oscar Piastri will line up for the rebranded Alpine squad, while the rest of the grid is made up of celebrity guests and famous YouTube faces, including Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois who returns to the series for Alfa Romeo.

In a change to the format for this year’s Virtual Grand Prix series, the Feature Race grid will be determined by a five-lap Sprint Race featuring the team’s F1 Esports Pro Series drivers. The teams are battling it out for a share of a charity prize pot which they will donate to a cause of their choosing.

All the races will be streamed via the official Formula 1 YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch channels, as well as Sky Sports in the United Kingdom.

The races take place across three consecutive weekends, with the first event at the Red Bull Ring followed up with rounds at Silverstone and Interlagos.

Full Virtual Austrian Grand Prix Feature Race line-up:

Mercedes: Stoffel Vandoorne and Anthony Davidson
Red Bull: Alex Albon and Jeffrey Herlings
McLaren: Jimmy Broadbent and Ben ‘Tiametmarduk’ Daly
Alpine: Christian Lundgaard and Oscar Piastri
Ferrari: Marcus Armstrong and Arthur Leclerc
AlphaTauri: Vitantonio Liuzzi and Luca Salvadori
Alfa Romeo: Thibaut Courtois and Jack ‘Pie Face’ McDermott
Haas: Pietro and Enzo Fittipaldi
Williams: George Russell and Nicholas Latifi

Full Virtual Austrian Grand Prix Sprint Race line-up:

Mercedes: Jarno Opmeer and Dani Moreno
Red Bull: Frede Rasmussen and Marcel Kiefer
McLaren: James Baldwin and Josh Idowu
Alpine: Nicolas Longuet and Fabrizio Donoso
Ferrari: David Tonizza and Brendon Leigh
AlphaTauri: Joni Tormala and Manuel Biancolilla
Alfa Romeo: Dani Bereznay and Thijmen Schutte
Haas: Cedric Thome and Samuel Libeert
Williams: Alvaro Carreton and Alessio di Capua