F1 news: Russell wins Virtual GP at Baku, Leclerc struggles

George Russell took his third successive Formula 1 Virtual Grand Prix victory at Baku, while Charles Leclerc suffered a nightmare race which finally ended his run of podium finishes.

Russell, the winner of the previous two F1 esports races at Catalunya and Monaco, beat Red Bull’s Alexander Albon to pole position. Williams F1 driver Russell was able to maintain his lead at the start of the race and he earned a dominant race win ahead of ex-Formula 2 title advisory Albon.

Albon was unable to provide much competition for Russell, and Albon’s final hopes of claiming his first Virtual GP since his win at Interlagos were dashed when he picked up a three-second penalty for corner-cutting. Russell’s third race win in a row means he moves ahead of Leclerc to the top of the unofficial drivers’ championship, which was retrospectively constructed days before the virtual Baku race.

Leclerc struggled in qualifying and could only manage 10th place. He fell further down the order at the start of the race when he was involved in a multi-car crash. His Ferrari teammate Enzo Fittipaldi – an FIA Formula 3 driver and Ferrari junior – lost his car in the tight-Castle section and he ended up collecting his team-mate Leclerc. 

Leclerc picked up 12 seconds worth of track-limits penalties and he finished down in 14th place, the first time he has failed to finish on the podium in the series. 

Mercedes reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez earned his second straight podium finish in third place, ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris who achieved his best Virtual GP finish in fourth position. Renault junior Oscar Piastri, who will drive for reigning series champions Prema in FIA F3 this year, finished in fifth place on his series debut ahead of Haas F1 reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi and Williams’ Nicholas Latifi. 

Popular YouTuber Ben ‘Tiametmarduk’ Daly was eighth on his maiden Virtual GP outing, with long-time Mercedes simulator driver Anthony Davidson and popular streamer Jimmy Broadbent rounding out the top 10. F1 drivers Pierre Gasly and Sergio Perez struggled on their first starts, placing 12th and 15th respectively. 

Ex-Renault junior Jarno Opmeer won on his debut for Alfa Romeo in the F1 Esports Pro Exhibition race ahead of Racing Point’s Lukas Blakeley and reigning F1 Esports champion David Tonizza. 

The final Virtual GP before the belated real-life F1 season starts will take place at the Canadian Grand Prix venue in Montreal next Sunday.  

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