The format of this year’s VGP series involves a one lap qualifying for Esports drivers, in our case Biancolilla and Tormala, who then took part in a 5 lap Sprint Race which decides the grid positions for the real drivers – for AlphaTauri, motorcycle racer and You Tuber Luca Salvadori and our former F1 driver Tonio Liuzzi – in a Feature Race run over 50% of the real Grand Prix distance.
All competitors were linked remotely from home, racing on the Silverstone track on the Codemaster “F1 2020” game. In the Sprint Race, Biancolilla, who was racing for Liuzzi’s grid position, finished seventh, but a collision spoilt Tormala’s race, thus handing 15th on the back row of the grid to Salvadori for the 26 laps Feature Race. There were 16 drivers ready for the start as Aston Martin and Mercedes were not taking part in this second of three rounds.
For much of the race, Salvadori and Liuzzi, who had both started on Mediums, ran one behind the other between 11th and 13th places, fighting with McLaren and Alfa Romeo. Tonio dropped back with a technical problem. With ten laps to go, Salvadori pitted for Soft tyres and then charged up the order to claim the final point for tenth spot. He passed McLaren’s vlogger Jimmy Broadbent and Alfa Romeo’s gamer Jack “Pie Face” McDermott and the Real Madrid and Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, with whom he enjoyed a close duel. The Belgian is becoming something of a pro sim racer given his speed, determination and consistency. However, Luca had a 3 second time penalty to add for having exceeded track limits so not only did he have to pass Courtois, he had to pull out more than a three second lead to claim that tenth place. Over the closing laps, Manuel Biancolilla donned the headphones and acted as Race Engineer, telling Luca what fuel settings to run at various parts of the track and how to make the best use of the slipstream and tyres. Salvadori was lapping at qualifying pace and at the flag he finished just over 3 seconds ahead so it was mission accomplished for P10. The winner was George Russell (Williams,) followed by Alex Albon (Red Bull Racing) and Callum Ilott (Ferrari.)
Our team is now seventh in the championship, but we hope to improve in the last Virtual GP which takes place at Brazil’s Interlagos track. The more points scored, the more money goes to our nominated charity, Wings For Life, so we will be giving it our best shot. You can watch all the action here on our social channels on Sunday 14 February, with the live stream starting at 19.00 CET.
“It was a really difficult race. I started from P15 and so the only way was up. I got a nice start and managed to make up a few places. Then I maintained my pace and in the end we managed to get into the Top 10 to score another point, which was my goal, having started from so far back. I hope to do better in Brazil, maybe starting a bit further up the grid to get a few more points.”
“It was another very complicated race. I was very confident, because I had definitely prepared better than for the first race when everything went wrong with my computer. This time, while I was fighting for sixth or seventh place, around half distance, something broke on my brake pedal. So I did all the second half of the race without being able to brake aggressively, because basically the pedal only had 50% movement and so I had to hold myself back a bit. That meant I made a lot of mistakes, but I managed to bring the car home in a reasonable position. It was definitely good fun, because compared to the small number of other events like this that I have entered, I felt more at ease. Of course, I’m disappointed not to have finished in the Top Ten. Well done to Luca who produced another great performance and now we will try and be as well prepared as possible for the final in Sao Paolo. Once again I thank AlphaTauri and Red Bull for give me this opportunity, because at the end of the day, when you’re at the wheel of a Formula 1 car, real or virtual, it’s always a great feeling.”