In qualifying, the Italian, who was racing for us, beat the Belgian who was driving the other Red Bull Racing car. But then in the race, Courtois finished 16th, one place ahead of our Ciro. So we can claim that, in terms of pure speed, the advantage lay with the centre forward, which is what you would expect. However, in the race, Ciro, who started from 13th on the grid, was hit from behind and crossed the finish line in 17th place, which might have had something to do with the Lazio lad being a bit too keen on his shirt number…17! Joking apart, his performance and the effort he put in to the whole event was first class, down to his love of Formula 1 and the approach of a professional sportsman.
Things went a little bit better for our other driver, the Red Bull Junior Programme F3 driver, Liam Lawson. The New Zealander had a complicated qualifying, only managing one clean lap, which put him ninth on the grid. More highs and lows would follow in the race and Liam was also involved in a collision at the start. But he had great pace and managed to move up to eighth at the flag after 28 laps of racing around the Shanghai International Circuit. The 18 year old from Pukekohe was impressive in a battle with Giovinazzi and Latifi, keeping calm and getting the better of the more experienced duo.
Liam Lawson (P8):
“The end result was a little bit frustrating for me. The pace we had in practice was really strong, so I was feeling quite good about the race. We had a bit of a mix up in quali, with a last minute strategy change, which meant I only did one qualifying lap, which wasn’t very good and I had to start from ninth. Then, everyone was very aggressive going into the first corner, so I got smashed off and then the same happened again one lap later.
Once everything settled down, I started to make my way back up again. I had started on the Medium tyre so we could go a lot longer and as the others pitted I managed to be the lead car on the Mediums and had quite a nice stint. Then I pitted taking on the Hard tyre and again had a really strong pace, which was positive.
I had a close battle with Giovinazzi, who was very aggressive, so it took me a while to get past. In the end, I finished P8, which I think is a good result, considering what happened, but also a little bit frustrating. If everything had gone our way in quali and at the start of the race, we should have been fighting for a top five place. But thank you to Scuderia AlphaTauri and Red Bull for this opportunity.”
Ciro Immobile (P17):
“It was great to be able to compete against professional racers, I couldn’t sleep with the excitement of it. I have to admit that in the hours leading up to the race, I was a bit nervous and kept trying to find the few tenths I was missing. Qualifying went well and starting from P13 wasn’t bad, although I had a problem on my last flying lap and so I had to box.
The race got off to a very bad start, the first problem being the strategy choice as I was on Mediums instead of the red tyres. Then at the first corner, there was a car sideways ahead of me and I got hit from behind. I restarted last and tried to maintain my pace, but it was a bit frustrating psychologically, so I don’t feel I did my best. Without all those misadventures, I think I could have at least maintained my start position and after that, who knows, with the right strategy, maybe I could have moved into the top ten. Thanks to Scuderia AlphaTauri and Red Bull Racing for this opportunity. I gave it my best shot from start to finish, because that’s in my DNA!”
As usual, before the Virtual GP, there was a Pro Exhibition Race, with all the F1 Esports professional sim racers on track. The 14 lap race was won by Brendon Leigh, with a return to form with Mercedes, having dominated virtual F1 racing in 2017 and 2018, before doing less well last year. Behind him came our former driver Frede Rasmussen for Red Bull Racing Esports. Marcel Kiefer and Patrik Holzmann took our cars to 14th and 19th respectively.
The next Virtual GP will take place on 3 May, which should have been the date of the now postponed real Dutch Grand Prix. The F1 Virtual GP Series is being run on the Codemasters F1 2019 video game, which therefore doesn’t include new venues such as Zandvoort, so over the next few days, fans can vote on F1 social channels as to which track they would like the next race to be run on.
Meanwhile, you can watch the full race from last night, by clicking here!