Leclerc beats Albon in Virtual Chinese GP as Norris fails to start again


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Charles Leclerc scored his second Virtual Grand Prix victory in as many appearances in the series.

The Ferrari driver came out on top in a race-long scrap with Red Bull rival Alexander Albon. The pair were separated by little more than two seconds after 28 laps, half a grand prix distance around the Shanghai International Circuit.

Albon, who shared the front row of the grid with pole sitter Leclerc, pushed his rival hard in the opening laps. He briefly got ahead of the Ferrari driver after the pair made their mandatory pit stops, only to fall behind him again.

Stoffel Vandoorne took third place on the road but a five-second time penalty for multiple warnings handed a virtual home podium appearance to Renault’s round one winner Guanyu Zhou.

George Russell fumed after a penalty relegated him from second on the grid to fifth. He lost places at the start, then gambled on an early pit stop for hard tyres to regain lost ground, but lost time when footballer Ciro Immobile spun in front of him as he left the pits.

From there Russell mounted an aggressive recovery drive through the field, and was within sight of Zhou when the chequered flag fell.

Among those who fell victim to one of Russell’s bold moves was Louis Deletraz, who came in seven behind the second Merceds of Esteban Gutierrez. Red Bull Junior Team driver Liam Lawson took eighth ahead of Nicholas Latifi and Carlos Sainz Jnr.

The McLaren driver bounced back from a first-lap crash to lead several laps on his debut. But he was his team’s only representative in the race after Lando Norris suffered yet more technical problems. He remains yet to complete any of the three races he has entered so far.

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Starting grid

1Charles LeclercFerrari
2Alexander AlbonRed Bull
3Louis DeletrazHaas
4Guanyu ZhouRenault
5George RussellWilliams
6Esteban GutierrezMercedes
7Stoffel VandoorneMercedes
8Pietro FittipaldiHaas
9Liam LawsonAlphaTauri
10Nicholas LatifiWilliams
11Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren
12Callum IlottFerrari
13Ciro ImmobileAlphaTauri
14Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo
15Juan Manuel CorreaAlfa Romeo
16Thibault CourtoisRed Bull
17Jimmy BroadbentRacing Point
18Anthony DavidsonRacing Point
19Ian PoulterRenault
DNQLando NorrisMcLaren

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1Charles LeclercFerrari
2Alexander AlbonRed Bull
3Guanyu ZhouRenault
4George RussellWilliams
5Stoffel VandoorneMercedes
6Esteban GutierrezMercedes
7Louis DeletrazHaas
8Liam LawsonAlphaTauri
9Nicholas LatifiWilliams
10Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren
11Pietro FittipaldiHaas
12Callum IlottFerrari
13Jimmy BroadbentRacing Point
14Juan Manuel CorreaAlfa Romeo
15Thibault CourtoisRed Bull
16Anthony DavidsonRacing Point
17Ciro ImmobileAlphaTauri
18Ian PoulterRenault
DNFAntonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo
DNSLando NorrisMcLaren

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    37 comments on “Leclerc beats Albon in Virtual Chinese GP as Norris fails to start again”

    1. Is Norris Sponsored by IRacing?

      1. @mrboerns No, he only plays it.

    2. @mrboerns no, but it is indeed very odd that he’s yet to start a race. He’s a gamer, unlike some of the others who got (forced?) into this after the lockdown, so it’s surprising that he’s having so many technical issues.

      He doesn’t seem to bother, tho…

      1. @fer-no65
        Hes a gamer sure but he seems to have no understanding at all of the technical side so its not unthinkable that his technical problems are genuine.
        His iricing setup is bought as a complete package, he just sits down and it works.

        1. @rethla Lando only seems to have problems with this when the grid is full, which is particularly odd given that, from the few screenshots I’ve seen, Windows 10 (i.e. his operating system that should have no idea how full the F1 2019 grid is that he is trying to remain in…) appears to be a component of the issue. He never seems to get this issue when it’s a partial grid.

          I’m not surprised that Lando is confused by the situation, because elements of it make no sense to this former IT support assistant either…

          1. @alianora-la-canta don’t forget Norris has been racing in the Race for the World series on F1 2019 with full grids. He’s had no technical problems there.

            1. @sato113 He did on the first one. However, unlike Virtual GP, the lobby restarts between qualifying and the race, so he was able to get back in.

    3. I found the event appaling to watch. They were cutting and extending corners all over the place – the better they’d cheat the better the lap-time. Also all assist allowed, ERS management turned to automatic, damage reduced. I would’ve expected something a bit more professional from this official series. It’s a (j)yoke.

      1. @me4me Indeed, and I’m surprised this many current race-drivers have bothered to enter in the first place. I’m kind of glad the likes of Lewis, and Kimi haven’t.

        1. It would be really Kimish to join for the season’s last event and win it :P
          And also I would be really sad if it’s Kimi’s last “season”, what is not unlikely.

      2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        19th April 2020, 21:39

        it is an arcade game. I do wonder why it is the official F1 game. The graphics and most other things about it are very poor compared to the virtual indycar series.

        The way the cars ride the road in this just looks so much better in indycar. They react in a realistic way to bumps and don’t look to have any of these bizarre random moves that just couldn’t happen in real life. I mean just look at the way they pull into their pit box. It just looks too fast and fake for me to want to watch it in full. Really doesn’t seem right to have as an official game.

        1. Pit entry in the Codies F1 games is fully automatic there is no manual option except for the approach. So the jerkiness you see is the driver racing in high speed then slamming brakes on just time for when the game takes over. If they had pit penalties off as well the driver just goes full speed until they reach the invisible line where the ai takes over. It’s designed for the casual market who would probably have a lot of fun causing havoc in the pits so they don’t allow manual pitting.

        2. @thegianthogweed

          it is an arcade game. I do wonder why it is the official F1 game.

          Because they are going for mass market appeal & most of the people who are going to be buying these games don’t want a super realistic simulator. The more sim based things never really sell as well in the console market especially. Its why the sim stuff is a more niche genre that tends to be a more PC centric thing.

          I enjoy these codemasters f1 games, They offer me exactly what I want which is something that feels good enough that I can jump into & have fun with. I do also enjoy the sims & have a PC & wheel/pedal setup, But I tend to play for fun more than anything now so I find the more jump in & play/have fun stuff more appealing.

          1. I’m with you there @stefmeister. Since hardly anyone of us has the time or the want to invest hours into finetuning their skills we just want a game we can play. Fire up PC, do some laps, have a go at a race etc.

            I do think the multiplayer has had weakpoints for some time with connections and glitches playing up. That would be a higher priority now, I hope.

        3. @thegianthogweed Provided it’s resource-light, bad graphics would be a positive reason for the game to be the official one, because that means more people will be technically capable of attempting online play. You don’t hear about it so much these days, but in the early online internet days, serious gamers used to turn their visual settings down as far as possible to reduce lag. While computers and the average connection has improved since (note not everywhere has improved as much as some gaming companies appear to think), people also take for granted being able to send each other more data, are more likely to be sharing connections and are more likely to be playing people from further away – all of which put pressure on connections.

          That it’s just about possible to play semi-professional-level eSports on it is a happy bonus.

          1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            20th April 2020, 12:51

            What would be more interesting to me and probably a much larger amount of F1 drivers would be if it was as realistic as indycar. It may be far more demanding in terms of system requirements to run it, but it just seems a shame to me to have a mix of a few F1 drivers and some rather inexperienced people with them.

      3. @me4me This is what happens when the rules are set to “Standard” and not “Strict”. Not that Strict is entirely realistic with boundaries either, but “Standard” is definitely configured with casual gamers in mind, not serious gamers or super-competitive people.

    4. If they’re going to bother with this I wish they would use Iracing. I mean even GPL would be better than this garbage they are using.

      1. @darryn Yes, iRacing would be better. More realistic + greater variation in the car-selection.

      2. What does it really matter, though? They’re just games — more realistic or not, who cares? It’s all fake anyway.

      3. @darryn Neither has an official F1 licence, though, so no chance of that.

    5. The comparison with Indycar iRacing (IIR) couldn’t be more stark. IIR has the same commentary crew, right down to a guy in the “pits” who monitors back-channel chatter and other minutiae. Cars who hit each other are damaged and there’s a “three-strikes-you’re-out” rule. The racing is professional, clean, and exciting. AND WE GET INSTANT REPLAY!

      All in all a much better experience IMO.

    6. Camera busy watching 6th place while Leclerc and Albon fighting for the lead for several laps, didn’t even get to see the overtake. I suppose it’s better than cutting to a celebrity shot.

      1. So just like a real F1 race then. At least they got that the same.

    7. Poor reliability for Norris.

      Win ME PC, Win ME. Aaargh!

    8. The novelty has worn off now. They need to switch to a proper game asap.

      1. Using the official game is likely contractual, or contrite. Admitting that F1 doesn’t have a realistic simulation available would be somewhat embarrassing for all concerned.

      2. I agree, they need to upgrade the game, and they need to “raise the bar” too. For example, didn’t they just release F1 2020? They should send out a copy of that to the drivers for the next “GP”. Also, as others have said, including the race commentators, there needs to be less driver aids. If it means less novice-guest drivers then so be it.

        1. They announced F1 2020, it releases in July 2020.

          1. Oops, jumped the gun. Thanks for correcting me.

    9. I think the issue with the virtual grand prix is that its confused over what it’s trying to be. Is it just a bit of fun or a realistic attempt at a sim race?

      Other manufacturers have gone down the fully sim route – a decent simulator rather than an arcade game and the usual rules apply, none of this silly corner cutting lark. In indycar they had the drivers usual race engineers and spotters in to help with strategy etc. Real life stewards rather than a poorly programmed computer (I’m sorry, Russell’s penalty in quali was stupid!!). And leaving the poor drivers alone when they’re driving, rather than talking to poor Ian Poulter in the middle of a wheel-to-wheel fight and distracting him so he stuffs it in the barrier. The result? Almost every regular driver enters, and you get a decent simulation of what the race would be, albeit with a few quirks unique to sim racing.

      Others, like the veloce verses, go down the pure entertainment route – they dont care about making it like a normal race weekend, they just care about entertainment. Crazy, one-lap races, 1v1. Even then they had proper stewarding…

      The official virtual grand prix has tried to go down the middle of both sim and entertainment and has failed spectacularly at both. No wonder most of the drivers havent bothered entering.

      1. @minnis I thought it was pretty clear that it was meant as a bit of fun, though because it’s using the usual Liberty veneer it looks less fun than I believe was the intention. They’ve opted for a long enough race that strategy is at least vaguely relevant, but trying to keep it possible for novices to turn up and not make a total fool of themselves. (This is also necessary to avoid putting off some of the F1 drivers, because they all hate losing).

        1. @alianora-la-canta I don’t think it’s clear at all that it’s just a bit of fun, quite the opposite in fact – to me it seems as if this is a genuine attempt to do a serious sim-racing championship, just executed horrifically. As you mention – they have ensured strategy is relevant. Plus, as we have seen from the Indycar iracing races, drivers were getting their simulators delivered the day before the race and were still fairly competitive.

          1. @minnis I cannot believe that a series that doesn’t use the strictest ruleset on the game it is choosing can possibly be trying to do a serious (as opposed to a fun) championship. Especially with how woolly the non-strict rulesets in F1 2019 are known to be. Also… …some Indycar drivers were competitive with getting a sim the day before. Some were not competitive despite having had their sim for a while – it’s only pick-up-and-go for some people at that difficulty level. The spread wasn’t prohibitive in Indycar’s, but it was there – and in NASCAR (which is also using iRacing to attempt a serious sim), the difference was broad enough that people were rage-quitting (and rage-doing-worse-stuff) after falling behind.

            Since F1 can’t tell where it’s going to fall into that grouping, except that it knows it has some people who are put off by fairly low difficulty curves… …I hope you can see where this is going.

    10. Jose Lopes da Silva
      20th April 2020, 10:15

      McLaren: remote Norris ’20 = Andretti ’93

    11. Meanwhile, Formula E has already set up a full championship in a proper simulator with 19 of the 22 real drivers participating in the first race.

      1. @krommenaas And one of the other 3 not participating because of another eSports race that was already scheduled, that happened within 24 hours of it.

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