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Formula 1

Verstappen wins, collides with Norris in Redline pro driver event

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

Red Bull Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen won the first race of Team Redline’s ‘Real Racers Never Quit’ online series, before colliding with fellow F1 racer Lando Norris in the second race.

Verstappen saw off stern competition from Formula Renault frontrunner Lorenzo Colombo in the opening 10-lap iRacing heat held in Dallara F3 machinery at a virtual Spa-Francorchamps.

The opening round of Esports outfit Redline’s new initiative, conceived amid mass disruptions to the real-life 2020 motorsport calendar caused by the coronavirus pandemic, attracted a bumper 45-strong grid made up almost entirely of professional racing drivers.

Aside from current F1 drivers Verstappen and Lando Norris, it featured the likes of DTM champion Rene Rast, Toyota LMP1 driver Jose Maria Lopez and ex-Formula 1 drivers Juan Pablo Montoya, Felipe Nasr, Tiago Monteiro, Nelson Piquet Jr and Giedo van der Garde.

Colombo had topped the initial 40-minute practice and edged the two-lap qualifying by a tenth, with Verstappen and Norris also beaten by Kelvin van der Linde and therefore making up the second row.

But Verstappen was into the lead by Les Combes courtesy of a Kemmel Straight slipstream, and established a lead of two-thirds of a second over Colombo after the first two laps.

Colombo soon halved that, reeling the Red Bull F1 driver back in, and was seen pulling out of Verstappen’s slipstream on the Kemmel straight on multiple occasions.

But Verstappen – who had won all three Spa races during his sole season in European F3 in 2014 – pulled a decisive six-tenths gap coming onto the final tour, and brought the car home to secure the win.

Former European F3 champion Dani Juncadella completed the podium, overtaking Porsche Supercup regular Larry ten Voorde for the spot.

In a callback to his days in F3, McLaren F1 driver Norris struggled badly off the line and was down to 12th place at the end of the opening lap.

He fought his way back through the pack, finishing sixth, 7.5 seconds behind Verstappen and a tenth off fifth-placed Ayhancan Guven, the 2019 Porsche Supercup runner-up.

Philipp Eng led fellow BMW works driver Bruno Spengler in seventh, despite Eng clashing with van der Linde during the race. The latter came home in ninth, followed by fellow South African Jordan Pepper.

Formula E championship leader Antonio Felix da Costa ran in the top 10 but was tapped into a spin by Mikkel Jensen. He recovered to 15th, finishing one place ahead of IndyCar’s Felix Rosenqvist.

Only 30 of 45 entrants finished on the lead lap, with Montoya among the retirements after a huge Les Combes collision with DTM’s Mike Rockenfeller.

Van der Linde crashes Verstappen/Norris party in race two

Van der Linde then won the event’s second 10-lap Spa-Francorchamps race, taking advantage of a collision between Verstappen and Norris.

The two F1 rivals and sometime online team-mates locked out the front row and kept position after the start.

Communicating via voice chat during the race, the pair overtook one another on the Kemmel Straight several times during the race as they sought to manage their advantage over the rest of the pack.

But a couple of scruffy laps allowed van der Linde into slipstream range, and on the penultimate lap he attacked for the lead.

He was blocked by Norris into Les Combes and had minor contact with Verstappen, only for the latter to then move into the lead under braking, clip the grass in the second part of the corner and spin across the track, catching out Norris.

This allowed van der Linde to ease to victory, with Eng second and Jensen completing the podium.

Norris and Verstappen rejoined slightly further down the order, and when Verstappen and Nicky Catsburg then spun while battling at the Bus Stop chicane on the final lap, the McLaren driver snuck past to end up fourth.

The ‘Real Racers Never Quit’ series will resume on Wednesday with a GTE race at a yet-to-be disclosed circuit.

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