Leclerc wins Virtual Vietnam/Melbourne F1 Esports

After an eventful first round in place of the Bahrain GP, F1 Esports returned tonight for the Virtual Vietnam GP.

Which due to technical limitations will be in Melbourne, Australia.

After such a raucous affair two weeks ago to fill the Bahrain slot, more names have taken up the gauntlet to occupy their isolated evenings.

The evening proved to be a great fun race with some high quality drives and professional drivers but it did not lose the charm of the first event!

Screenshot 2020-04-05 at 20.59.00
Christian Lundgaard attacking Arthur Leclerc © F1, Codemasters

Mercedes have kept their well run duo of Esteban Guttierez and Stoffel Vandoorne, who came to blows earlier in the evening in a head to head Veloce Esports knockout round in which Vandoorne was penalised for punting off the Mexican at the last corner.

A new lineup for Ferrari in the form of Charles Leclerc and his brother, Arthur who is a Ferrari junior driver.

Red Bull now have their driver Alex Albon joining the fray teaming up with Cricket superstar and BBC Sports Personality of the year, Ben Stokes.

McLaren retain Lando Norris fresh from his Veloce victory earlier. And returning to his old team to partner him is 2009 WDC Jenson Button.

Guanyu Zhou is not returning to Renault despite victory in Bahrain, other Renault junior Christian Lundgaard is taking part and teaming up with him is Andre Heimgartner from V8 supercars.

Racing Point retain the sim racing superstar that is Jimmy Broadbent and teaming up with him is Anthony Davidson. Davidson did not get the memo that the race was postponed last time out and raced his own game with the CPU control for all the others. He finished fifth though so expect some decent pace from the Mercedes simulator driver.

Haas have their junior lineup of Louis Deletraz and Pietro Fittipaldi.

AlphaTauri have bike racer Luca Salvadori returns alongside Nunzio Todisco (who after a quick google appears to be an Italian opera singer but is actually YouTuber NU89).

Alfa Romeo have their race driver Antonio Giovinazzi representing them alongside last race’s hero, Johnny Herbert who has been getting used to left foot braking.

Arguably best till last is Williams who have their full F1 lineup in the form of George Russell and Nicholas Latifi.

Screenshot 2020-04-05 at 21.09.12
Nicholas Latifi and Jenson Button race side by side © F1, Codemasters

Pole went to Christian Lundgaard followed by Charles Leclerc and George Russell.

Deletraz came in ahead of Arthur Leclerc, Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi.

Giovinazzi and Norris made sure all the current F1 drivers were in the top 10 with Vandoorne rounding it out.

11th-20th was Fittipaldi, Salvadori, Gutierrez, Button, Heimgartner, Todisco, Broadbent, Davidson, Herbert and Stokes.

Charles Leclerc got a mega start and led into turn one relegating Lundgaard down the order and Arthur Leclerc served as a succesful rear gunner for his brother once Russell made a mistake after a few laps as Lundgaard worked his way back up.

The game proved its difficulty with many pros spinning in the race including Albon and Deletraz.

Being a much trickier circuit than Bahrain, the race was much more serious than the chaos at the previous event. Less impetus to go for a banzai move with a gravel trap on the edge of the track in place of asphalt.

But there were still a lot of good battles. A lot of clean racing throughout the field.

Albon was working his way through the field after he spun early on with a close fight with Button and in the closing stages the 2000 Williams driver Button got to fight with 2020 Williams driver Latifi.

Some of the best moves came from Lundgaard as he fought with Arthur Leclerc for a podium position and he eventually lunged into turn one as Arthur went wide.

This allowed Russell to retake third and the top four stayed the same for the rest of the race.

Leclerc won convincingly with a gap of 14s to Lundgaard. Charles has only been on his sim for a week and has taken to it incredibly well as this proves.

Russell achieved a podium for Williams despite only getting his sim very recently like Leclerc and Arthur Leclerc came home fourth despite being hunted down by Antonio Giovinazzi late on.

Vandoorne was 6th after a late race battle with Louis Deletraz who had good pace but had to fight back after multiple mistakes. The same case could be made for Albon in 8th.

Jimmy Broadbent continued to perform admirably against high class competition finishing ahead of Latifi and Fittipaldi who were in front of a very good Jenson Button, having only finished building his sim last week.

The Alphatauris came next with Salvadori ahead of NU89.

Davidson, Heimgartner and Herbert followed with Ben Stokes a lap down after a few spins but he was in the fight early on.

Lando Norris and Gutierrez were unable to take part in the race after Norris’ game crashed meaning there are still some questions to go regarding Norris’ credentials up against his peers.

We’ve seen he can beat YouTubers but he will want to beat F1 drivers too.

“The competition is on” said Charles Leclerc after the race who also streamed himself on twitch. “It was unbelievably hard”.

“I’m sweating like crazy”.

“It was tough, everyone was very, very quick. The one with the least mistakes will win.”

Leclerc proved that right, not putting a foot wrong. He rounded off the interview saying he hopes he can take part in the next event and whether the Ferrari Esports manager allows him to at Shanghai in two weeks time. I think its likely he will.

A bit more of a serious event than Bahrain as the standard was much higher but still immense fun.

The light hearted entertainment came a lot from the driver twitch streams.

Norris, when the game crashed encouraged his followers to spam the game chat with “Restart for Lando” which took up the entire chat for the race.

Charles Leclerc managed to do a slide show at the end to round off his stream nicely but could not work out if he was on air or not in a remarkably wholesome bit of entertainment.

Bless the guy. How lovely.

Meanwhile, Lando was not happy…

The F1 Virtual GP will return in Shanghai in two weeks time. In the meantime a lot of drivers will be streaming themselves practicing, be sure to check them out, they’re a lot of fun!