Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc is among five Formula 1 drivers who will contest this weekend’s Virtual Grand Prix round, with Alex Albon and George Russell also making their esports series debuts.
F1’s virtual competition has been launched in place of the real grands prix cancelled or postponed by the coronavirus crisis, and uses the championship’s official video game on a computer platform.
When the initiative was announced, F1 said current drivers and “a host of stars” would take part but the inaugural round featured only McLaren’s Lando Norris and Williams rookie Nicholas Latifi from the current grid.
Norris and Latifi will return for this weekend’s Australian GP, which is being used in place of the Vietnam GP that should have been held in reality – the Hanoi track does not feature on F1 2019 as it should be new the calendar this year.
They will be joined by Leclerc and his brother Arthur – a Ferrari junior – Red Bull driver Albon and Williams racer Russell, who had said earlier this week it was time he ‘dabbled’ in esports.
F1 has suggested more current drivers could be added to the list with further announcements due in the coming days.
The first round had VIP entries and the second will be no different, with cricket World Cup winner Ben Stokes the first major non-F1 name confirmed.
He is a Red Bull Athlete and will partner Albon – regular driver Max Verstappen has made it clear he prefers other simracing platforms to the F1 game.
Renault has announced its Academy driver and Formula 2 rookie Christian Lundgaard, and Australian Supercars driver Andre Heimgartner will represent the French team.
The Virtual Australian GP’s broadcast will begin at 8pm UK time on Sunday. It will feature a qualifying session and a 28-lap race.
As with the inaugural round, the cars will run with equal car performance, reduced vehicle damage and optional anti-lock brakes and traction control.
There will also be an ‘F1 Esports Pro Exhibition race’ after the Virtual GP, making use of F1’s esports drivers.