Carlos Sainz Jr, Juan Manuel Correa and Ciro Immobile will join the Formula 1 Virtual GP grid for this weekend’s Shanghai race, run in place of the postponed real-life Chinese Grand Prix.
Sainz will partner his regular McLaren F1 team-mate Lando Norris, making McLaren the second F1 team to field its full 2020 driver roster in a Virtual GP event after both George Russell and Nicholas Latifi contested the last race for Williams.
Sainz, who is a Gran Turismo ambassador and has been taking part in events on the PlayStation 4 game amid this pandemic, only recently got a simulator set-up to play F1 2019 on to compete in official F1 events.
He teased his Virtual GP participation in a Sky Sports interview released on Thursday, but said he couldn’t confirm it until he had sorted out “issues with the brake pedal”.
Sainz replaces 2009 world champion Jenson Button in the McLaren Virtual GP line-up, having jokingly warned Button during the Sky interview: “As soon as I get it done, don’t worry, I’ll be joining you [on the grid] Jenson, and you will probably have to represent someone else that is not McLaren because maybe Lando and me will take the places. But thanks for taking my place recently and doing a decent job at it.”
Sainz’s participation makes it seven current F1 drivers confirmed for the event. One of them, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, will be partnered by Correa.
Correa was an Alfa Romeo junior driver last year while racing for the Sauber Junior Team Formula 2, and made his Formula 1 test debut at Paul Ricard in a 2013-spec car in August.
Shortly after, F2 podium finisher Correa was involved in a huge accident at Spa, which claimed the life of fellow F2 driver Anthoine Hubert.
Correa suffered severe leg injuries but also went into a coma after his lungs filled with water owing to his body going into shock following the huge impact of the crash.
He then underwent 17-hour surgery for his leg injuries two weeks later and has had more operations since. His leg is in a brace as he continues to recover in Miami.
Correa has competed in The Race’s All-Star Cup – Fully Charged by ROKiT Phones while he continues his recuperation.
It was also announced on Friday that the Virtual GP Shanghai grid will feature at least two top-line professional football players, with the previously confirmed Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois joined by leading Serie A striker Immobile.
Immobile, who plays for league leader Lazio, has scored 15 goals or more in each of his past four seasons in the Italian league, and is the runaway leader in the current Serie A top goalscorer race with 27 goals.
He will drive for AlphaTauri in the virtual event, lining up alonsgide Red Bull-backed Formula 3 driver Liam Lawson.