Ferrari Formula 1 star Charles Leclerc beat Red Bull’s Alexander Albon to win the Virtual Chinese Grand Prix, his second successive win in the series.
Leclerc dominated on his series debut last time out at the virtual Albert Park circuit, however, he faced much tougher opposition during the Chinese GP replacement event which featured seven F1 drivers.
Leclerc took pole ahead of Williams F1 driver George Russell, who was furious to receive a five-place grid drop for illegal blocking in qualifying.
This promoted Albon to the front row alongside Leclerc. Albon was able to undercut Leclerc for the race lead during the one mandatory pitstop in the 28-lap race on Codemasters’ F1 2019.
Albon did everything he could to keep Leclerc behind, with his Red Bull team-mate, Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, even assisting him at one point in holding Leclerc up.
Even with Albon’s best tactics, Leclerc retook the lead on the 11th lap and was able to build a small buffer to Albon which he maintained until the chequered flag.
Second place marked Albon’s first podium in the series, with ex-Formula 1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne triumphing on the road in a race-long battle with Bahrain Virtual GP winner Guanyu Zhou for third place.
However, a five-second penalty for track limits abuse for Vandoorne handed Renault junior Zhou third place at his virtual home race.
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Vandoorne’s penalty also promoted Russell into fourth place. Another ex-F1 driver, Vandoorne’s Mercedes team-mate Esteban Gutierrez finished in sixth ahead of Formula 2 racer Louis Deletraz.
Red Bull junior Liam Lawson was the leading driver on the alternative strategy in eighth place on his series debut. Russell’s 2020 rookie Nicholas Latifi took ninth after Virtual GP newcomer Carlos Sainz Jr. was another to pick-up a corner-cutting penalty and dropped to 10th.
Two-time F1 Esports champion Brendon Leigh took his first win in the series since 2018, in the supporting-F1 Esports Pro Exhibition race.
The next round of the Virtual GP series will replace the postponed Dutch Grand Prix, and the fans will vote to decide the track with Zandvoort not included in F1 2019.