With the actual 2020 F1 season now cemented to get underway next month, organisers have confirmed that Sunday’s Azerbaijan Virtual Grand Prix will be the penultimate round in the eSports series, with the French Grand Prix in two weeks’ time set to bring the curtain down on what has been an entertaining and hugely-watched place-filler.
With the sport still on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak, a number of F1 stars have relied on the virtual series to keep themselves sharp, and two more familiar names join this weekend in the form of Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.
They join the six drivers who have become a regular mainstay of the Virtual GP series, with Williams driver George Russell looking to make it a hat-trick of consecutive wins this weekend after winning the last two races at Barcelona and Monaco.
Russell is once again joined by teammate Nicholas Latifi, while Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Alfa Romeo all boast one of their 2020 line-up in this weekend’s event. Previous race winner Charles Leclerc will be joined by Enzo Fittipaldi for Ferrari, while Red Bull’s Alex Albon partners former Dakar Rally champion Matthias Walkner.
McLaren driver Lando Norris is joined by Australian YouTube gamer Ben Daly under the alias of Tiametmarduk, with Antonio Giovinazzi joined once again by Courtois for Alfa Romeo.
Virtual Grand Prix rookie Gasly is partnered by AC Milan star Donnarumma for Alpha Tauri, while Haas will be represented by two up and coming stars in Pietro Fittipaldi and Louis Deletraz, who have featured heavily across eSports events this year. Renault meanwhile have partnered City defender Laporte with young Formula Three star Oscar Piastri.
Mexican F1 driver Perez meanwhile is joined by another regular name in YouTube star Jimmy Broadbent, with the final spots on the grid with Mercedes going to their reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez and Sky Sports presenter Anthony Davidson.
The series has already attracted more than 22m views across the five races so far, while Sunday’s event on the virtual streets of Baku will again be supported by a Formula Two event and the pro exhibition race at 4pm and 5pm respectively. The main event gets underway from 6pm, with a short qualifying session followed by a 26-lap grand prix.
“We are immensely proud of the Virtual Grand Prix series, which allowed us to bring Formula One to fans around the world, in a time when actual racing was not possible,” said Julian Tan, head of F1’s digital businesses and eSports.
“We are very grateful to the teams and drivers that have taken part in the series to date and look forward to ending the series with a bang in the coming weeks as we all gear up to kick off the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship season in Austria. “Great momentum has been gathered as part of our Virtual Grands Prix Series and we are excited to build on this momentum in our esports strategy going forward.”
Alfa Romeo: Antonio Giovinazzi, Thibaut Courtois
Alpha Tauri: Pierre Gasly, Gianluigi Donnarumma
Ferrari: Charles Leclerc, Enzo Fittipaldi
Haas: Pietro Fittipaldi, Louis Deletraz
McLaren: Lando Norris, Ben Daly (Tiametmarduk)
Mercedes: Esteban Gutierrez, Anthony Davidson
Racing Point: Sergio Perez, Jimmy Broadbent
Red Bull: Alex Albon, Matthis Walkner
Renault: Oscar Piastri, Aymeric Laporte
Williams: George Russell, Nicholas Latifi