Alexander Albon won a virtual Formula One thriller, against a field that included England cricketers Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad, around Brazil’s Interlagos circuit on Sunday to deny Charles Leclerc an esports hat-trick.
The Thai’s victory over his Ferrari rival gave Red Bull something to celebrate on a day that should have seen the return of Max Verstappen’s home Dutch Grand Prix after a 35-year absence.
Formula One’s 2020 season has yet to start due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down sport worldwide, with the postponed race at Zandvoort being one of many casualties.
The Brazilian layout, with all the drivers competing online from the comfort of their homes, was chosen by fans because Zandvoort does not feature in the 2019 version of the video game.
WATCH | Albon earns his 1st win on virtual F1 Grand Prix Interlagos circuit:
It provided more changes of lead than commentators could count after Stoffel Vandoorne, on pole for Mercedes a day after doing the same in a virtual Formula E race, threw away his advantage.
Albon, who collided with six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap of the real Brazilian race last year while running second, made no mistakes in a wheel-to-wheel race-long battle.
Leclerc, winner of the last two virtual races in China and Vietnam, traded the lead on almost every lap but opted for the hard tires at his pitstop while the Red Bull driver came in later for mediums.
Leclerc picked up a three second penalty with 13 laps to go for exceeding track limits, dropping the 22-year-old Monegasque to third at the end behind Williams’ George Russell.
Russell’s teammate Nicholas Latifi of Montreal finished in ninth place.
The rivalry between World Cup-winner Stokes and test teammate Broad provided a subplot, with the former taking bragging rights in 13th place to Broad’s 17th.