until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Russell overcomes Leclerc to win Virtual GP for Williams

by Matt Beer
3 min read

George Russell scored his first Formula 1 victory and ended an eight-year Williams win drought in the Virtual Spanish Grand Prix, thanks to a last-gasp Charles Leclerc time penalty.

Russell won the race on the road after emerging on top of a place-swapping fight with Leclerc, but was set to lose out on the win as he had a three-second penalty to serve for repeated track limits violations and Leclerc stayed close behind in the final laps.

Then as Leclerc started to slip back the Ferrari driver grew more frustrated and he cut the final chicane too much on the penultimate lap, earning a time penalty of his own.

That stopped him from inheriting victory as he finished 2.5 seconds behind Russell at the flag, making Russell the first Williams F1 victor since Pastor Maldonado’s shock win at Barcelona in 2012.

Russell’s win capped a perfect comeback following a disastrous first lap in which he fell from pole to fifth after being passed by Mercedes driver Esteban Gutierrez into Turn 1, then outmuscled by Leclerc.

“I am feeling ecstatic, I’m not used to this winning thing – I’ve not done it for a long, long time,” said Russell. “I’ve dearly missed it.

“I knew I had the pace around this track and I didn’t make the best start.

“I thought I couldn’t afford to get spun around at Turn 1. Charles did a good move around the outside and I could have been more aggressive but I thought I’d try to come back later in the race.”

Though he admitted he took too many liberties with the final chicane at the end of the race, Leclerc cut a frustrated figure and was “very disappointed” with his penalty, but admitted Russell was faster.

Charles Leclerc Ferrari Virtual GP Spain

“When he showed his real pace at the end he was too quick for me,” said Leclerc, who had also complained of lag mid-race that erased a buffer he had built to Russell and put the Williams within DRS range.

Gutierrez completed the podium as Alex Albon’s two-stop strategy gamble failed to pay off.

Albon ran third early on but game into the pits at the end of lap four, committing to a second stop later in the race.

His early stop meant he was able to undercut Leclerc and Gutierrez when they made their only visit to the pits, but he only had a five-second margin over Leclerc.

That meant that Albon’s second pitstop, at which he surprisingly switched to hard tyres rather than mediums, dropped him 15s behind the leader and with too much to do to catch back up.

Nicholas Latifi finished fifth ahead of Anthony Davidson, with Antonio Giovinazzi, Pietro Fittipaldi, Antonio Fuoco and Max Fewtrell completing the top 10.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was the best of the celebrity guests in 12th, beating Ralf Schumacher’s son David.

Sergio Aguero, the Manchester City striker, finished his F1 esports debut in 14th place for Red Bull ahead of McLaren’s Nicolas Hamilton.

The other McLaren driver, Lando Norris, retired early on. He was tipped into a spin on lap one and then quit after a second incident a few laps later in which he was driven into by guesting Barcelona footballer Arthur Melo.

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