In the real world of motorsport, currently no wheel turns, many professionals move their training on virtual racetracks. In line with this, many series currently offer their own small racing series on different platforms. In a first press release, the participation of the real Formula 1 drivers was announced somewhat prematurely. In the end, Nicholas Latifi and Lando Norris were just two stars from the premier class.
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The starting field was still impressive. With Nico Hülkenberg, Esteban Gutierrez, Stoffel Vandoorne, Johnny Herbert and Anthony Davidson, a handful of former Grand Prix drivers were still at the start. The rest of the field was filled with athletes from other fields and well-known personalities from the Sim Racing world.
Norris gets tips by phone
Lando Norris was the favorite due to his extensive experience in virtual racing. But just in time for qualifying, the McLaren pilot’s home computer crashed, which led to a start from the back row. Through his personal stream, Norris spontaneously decided to call a few colleagues from the Formula 1 circus to get tips on how to catch up.
The first number that Norris dialed was that of buddy Max Verstappen: “I would recommend that you simply switch off the computer,” was the Red Bull pilot’s advice. Verstappen itself is also active in the virtual racing scene but is not a friend of the official F1 game, which is aimed more at hobby drivers and cannot keep up with realistic simulations. “I would just clear half the field in the first corner and then drive against the direction of travel,” Verstappen joked.
After Verstappen, Norris called teammate Carlos Sainz. He had somewhat more sensible advice to offer: “You just have to get off to a clean start with the driver field. Then you should already be in the top ten in the first corner,” predicted the Spaniard. “Then you just drive like I’m lying in front of you all the time.”
Engineers help with the strategy
Because the break between qualifying and the race dragged on longer than planned due to technical problems, there was still time to call McLaren boss Zak Brow, for whom Norris apologized for the bad starting position for fun. Then the cell phone of two McLaren strategists rang. Norris asked the engineers what tire strategy he should use to race.
Another call from the Norris living room reached last year’s rookie colleague George Russell: “I thought I would give you a call because last year you had the most experience of starting from the back,” said Norris, who was with Williams is under contract.
After the very entertaining telephone marathon, the organizers were finally ready to start the race. Due to the unplanned delay, the distance was halved without further ado. And as soon as it got to the introductory round, Norris’ home computer crashed again.
Lando-bot is catching up
While the youngster booted up his computer again, the game represented a so-called bot car, which was controlled by artificial intelligence. “Lando-Bot” moved forward position by position. When the real Norris took over the racing car again in the tenth of 14 laps, the virtual McLaren was already in third place.
However, unlike most competitors, Norris had not yet turned to the mandatory pit stop. The tire change threw the British back to fifth place. In the fight for fourth place, the pro was pushed roughly by the influencer racing driver Jimmy Broadbent in the very last corner next to the track into the gang.
The virtual race management didn’t just turn a blind eye in this case. In the meantime, the race was more reminiscent of bumper cars than motorsport. In the end, Chinese Formula 2 driver Guanyu Zhu, who competed for Renault, was the first to cross the finish line. Stoffel Vandoorne (Mercedes) and DTM driver Philipp Eng (Red Bull) also made it onto the virtual podium.
Williams rookie Nicholas Latifi ended up in sixth place. Nico Hülkenberg, who is still a newcomer to virtual racing, narrowly missed the points in 11th place. The next race is scheduled to increase in two weeks – at the old date of the Vietnam Grand Prix. However, because the route is not available in the previous year’s game F1 2019, an alternative course must be used.