The first of three races in this mini-championship run on tracks featured on the Codemasters “F1 2020” video game took place last night. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all the drivers and presenters were linked in remotely to the Gfinity Arena in London, which up to 2019 hosted the F1 Esports world championships, with the races also shown on our site. The new format for the Virtual Grand Prix Series 2021 proved to be a success. Our professional Esports team racers, Joni Tormala and Manuel Biancolilla took part in the 5 lap sprint race, while the VIP drivers – pro motorcycle racer Luca Salvadori and our former F1 driver Tonio Liuzzi, raced over the 36 laps of the Feature Race.

Before the Sprint Race, Joni and Manuel took part in a one lap qualifying session, setting the eighth and 14th fastest times respectively. The start of the Sprint race did not go at all well, with both drivers the blameless victims of the first corner carnage. Both cars were damaged and, in such a short race, it was pretty much game over. Joni finished P14 and Manuel P17. We had paired Salvadori with Tormala and Liuzzi with Biancolilla, so Luca started from 14th and Tonio from 17th.

The Feature Race, won by Enzo Fittipaldi (Haas), followed by Stoffel Vandoorne (Mercedes) and Arthur Leclerc (Ferrari), was action packed, with plenty of overtaking, penalties and duels and Luca Salvadori was in the thick of it, running at a great pace and fighting for a long time with Latifi in the Williams, Albon for Red Bull Racing, Courtois in the Alfa Romeo and Jimmy Broadbent in a McLaren. Luca was up to the task and won most of his battles. In the end, he finished ninth, but it could have been seventh. However, it all went wrong for Tonio Liuzzi, who for a while before the start had various technical problems with his equipment. These mainly affected the steering wheel so he could barely control his virtual car, especially in the corners, which meant he was constantly going off the track and that inevitably led to disqualification.

Luca Salvadori

It was a crazy race. Unfortunately, at the third corner on the second lap, I was pushed off the track and lost all the places I had fought hard to make up in the opening laps. But, bit by bit, only in the first run, I did what I could, passing all the drivers up to seventh place and from then on I benefited from a few penalties for other drivers, being one of the few not to get one. In the end, I have to say it went well, because we finished in the points, which was the target for today. We will improve for the next race at Silverstone.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi

“In all respects, it was a day to forget. Practicing during the week, I felt I was in a comfort zone, running at a reasonable pace, so I was happy with my race preparation. Unfortunately, today it all went wrong from the moment I connected two and a half hours before the race and started to have problems: something wasn’t right and the pedals, steering wheel and headphones would not connect. I just about managed to get it fixed in time for the start. But the steering wheel settings were completely wrong, being set for a GT car and so I had to turn a lot in the corners. It was impossible to keep the car on track and I got so many penalties that I was disqualified. A shame, as I was feeling pretty confident for the race, but that’s part of the game in virtual racing. Well done to Luca who had a great race! I watched him after I’d retired and I’m pleased he had a strong pace and pulled off some excellent overtaking moves to uphold the honour of the AlphaTauri team. I hope that next time I will also be in the fight.”

Not long to wait for the next race, which takes place this coming Sunday 7 February when our four “digital” drivers will tackle the historic Silverstone track. Our live stream of the Sprint and Features races will again be shown here on our site, starting at 19.00 CET.

Both Scuderia AlphaTauri Esports and Red Bull Racing Esports have nominated Wings for Life as their charity, the foundation that supports research into spinal injuries. The prize fund is divided with 20 thousand dollars going to the winning team, 14 for second place and 10 for third. All the other points scorers will also earn money for their charity, with 8000 each going to the fourth to tenth place teams.

2021 Virtual Grand Prix standings after Event 3 by Scuderia AlphaTauri - square2021 Virtual Grand Prix standings after Event 3 by Scuderia AlphaTauri