In a very big weekend for sim racing, F1 Esports returned for a dramatic Virtual Dutch Grand Prix.
Alex Albon and Charles Leclerc fought again tooth and nail for victory with Albon coming out on top.
With Zandvoort not being playable on the 2019 game, a vote was held to determine the track to race at and the fan chosen track was Interlagos.
One of the favourite tracks on the calendar, the Brazilian track normally rounds of the season and generates fantastic races in real life, it did not disappoint this evening.
Mercedes kept the same lineup with Esteban Gutierrez and Stoffel Vandoorne.
Ferrari star Charles Leclerc, who’s won the two races he entered before this one, was teamed up with Ferrari Driver Academy racer Enzo Fittipaldi.
Red Bull kept Alex Albon on the books for obvious reasons and cricketer Ben Stokes returned to the fold.
Renault had Christian Lundgaard returning with Rally legend Petter Solberg taking part as well fresh from his entry in The Race esports Legends event.
Haas lined up Louis Deletraz and Pietro Fittipaldi with Racing Point fielding Jimmy Broadbent and David Schumacher, son of Ralf.
Alfa Romeo had Antonio Giovinazzi and Juan Manuel Correa returning.
McLaren had Lando Norris taking part and content creator and streamer Jelly taking up the gauntlet to be his teammate.
Williams had George Russell and Nicholas Latifi returning too.
Alphatauri had cricketer Stuart Broad who set beating Ben Stokes as his target and AC Milan player Alessio Romagnoli.
Vandoorne took pole from Russell and Enzo Fittipaldi.
Albon took the lead at the start after Vandoorne was tagged by Enzo Fittipaldi, who was squeezed between Russell and Vandoorne and spun across the track holding up Lundgaard and Russell.
The carnage also allowed Leclerc to jump up the order to the rear wing of Albon.
Every lap the lead changed with what became a ritualistic DRS pass into turn one.
They built up a lead over the rest of the field until the pitstop phases began with Leclerc jumping first.
He pitted for hard tyres and came back out with a clear track hoping to get an undercut on Albon.
Albon held his ground and didn’t panic to respond. He calmly stayed out and plugged away on his old softs until a few laps later when he came in for mediums.
Albon came out side by side with Leclerc and their fight for the lead resumed.
Albon slotted in behind Leclerc but with the fresher, softer tyres a fight was coming.
Leclerc fought him off admirably but eventually gave up the ghost as Albon forced his way past into the lead.
Wow. What a #VirtualGP!
What was your favourite moment from that race? pic.twitter.com/nJRLkblMAj
— Formula 1® Game (@Formula1game) May 3, 2020
— Aston Martin Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) May 3, 2020
Leclerc kept touch and the battle continued all the way through the race.
On lap 23, Leclerc got a 3 second time penalty for track limits abuse now that the strict rules were in place after some of the adventurous racing lines in China two weeks ago.
This didn’t stop him, he hounded Albon and they swapped positions again and again.
The battling allowed the recovering George Russell to close in slowly on the pair which only resulted in Leclerc needing to get past even more with second place under threat because of his penalty as well.
After the relentless battling, Albon came across the line to win his first F1 Virtual GP at the track where his first podium in F1 was taken away from him so close to the end of the race.
Russell was promoted to second and Leclerc finished in third to round off the podium.
You could not look away for the entire fight. It was intense.
One of the best fights for the lead in any race with the two of them battling and battling and battling.
Sim racing needed some quality after the farce that the end of the Indy 175 ended up being yesterday with Pagenaud taking out Norris and Ferruci doing the same to Askew ruining the end of what had been a brilliant race.
F1 stood up and the fight was on. A brilliant race.
Vandoorne recovered well to place fourth with his teammate Gutierrez right on his tail making it a good race in the end for the Mercedes duo.
It seems to be becoming a bit of a pattern for Vandoorne taking into account his FE esports performances, qualifying extremely well and showing good race pace but the odd mistake creeps in and doesnt allow him to race for the lead.
Lundgaard finished in sixth with Enzo Fittipaldi in seventh who was behind him for the majority of the race.
Louis Deletraz and Nicholas Latifi followed with Latifi finishing well considering he got involved in a big crash with Antonio Giovinazzi early on in the race whilst fighting high up the order.
The incident put Giovinazzi out of the race.
Norris rounded out the top 10 actually making a showing in a Virtual GP after game issues in previous rounds. He wasn’t without issue this time being unable to take part in qualifying so he started 20th and to fight up to the top 10 was very good for Norris after no practice, thinking he was not going to be taking part.
The bottom ten was David Schumacher, Petter Solberg, Ben Stokes, Juan Manuel Correa, Alessio Romagnoli, Jelly, Stuart Broad and Jimmy Broadbent.
Pietro Fittipaldi did not finish the race.
The next race is next weekend in Barcelona which by the nature of the track could be more tense affair with some more critical moves.
It looks set to be another quality event based on all the other Virtual GPs being brilliant.