Drivers, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Can F1 get close to a full grid of drivers for its Virtual Grands Prix?

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Formula 1 isn’t the only championship which has turned to virtual racing to keep fans entertained during the hiatus. IndyCar, NASCAR, Formula E and more have set up their own simracing leagues.

But F1 hasn’t been able to lure as many of its current drivers into the competition as its rival series have. While IndyCar had 31 of its (much larger) current driver roster competing last weekend, F1 attracted just seven out of its 20 regulars.

Why haven’t more joined in? Which ones could we see on the grid soon? Here’s what the teams told RaceFans.

Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas

Neither of Mercedes’ real-world drivers have turned up for any of the three races so far. The team say they are satisfied with the job reserve drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Gutierrez are doing so far, and are open to bringing Hamilton and Bottas in if they can, but there’s no indication yet that will happen.

Bottas was a much more active simracer earlier in his career, specialising in Live for Speed. Hamilton has co-operated with Polyphony Digital on Gran Turismo Sport and appears in the latest version of the game.

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Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
Vettel has bought himself a simracing rig
Leclerc now has as many virtual grand prix wins as he does real-world F1 victories, having won both rounds since he joined the series. And he may be joined by his team mate in the near future.

“I didn’t have a simulator until a couple of days ago,” said Vettel last week. “So I have not been tempted because I didn’t have the chance. But I have heard a lot of things about it, so I thought I might get one and try. I need to still set it up properly.

“I’m not going to foresee a career in simracing, I think it’s more something to try for fun. I grew up with some of the stuff and I’ve been playing some games but to be honest also since I had kids, it’s not the first thing on my list to do. I will see how much how much time there will be. I have read some of the news that some have been racing and I’ve also read that Charles did will on his debut so that was good for him.”

Red Bull: Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon

Max Verstappen dashed hopes that a full grid of F1 drivers might join the series by making it clear on more than one occasion he will “never” join the Virtual Grands Prix. “I don’t play that game and I would have to adapt to it,” he said last month.

However Alexander Albon has appeared for Red Bull and put in a good showing, chasing his former GP3 team mate and title rival Leclerc home on Sunday.

McLaren: Carlos Sainz Jnr and Lando Norris

Both McLaren drivers have entered
One of only two teams which have got both their drivers on the virtual grid. Lando Norris has been involved in the competition since the start, while Carlos Sainz Jnr joined for the first time last weekend. He had to acquire a PC in order to do so, as he only had a PlayStation 4 before.

Norris’s participation has been beset by internet connection problems, however, and he failed to join in Sunday’s race at all.

Renault: Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon

Neither Renault driver has joined the series yet and that doesn’t seem likely to change. The team is running a mixture of its academy drivers (top 2019 Formula 2 rookie Guanyu Zhou won the first virtual grand prix) and guests of the team’s sponsors such as golfer Ian Poulter, ambassador of new title sponsor DP World.

Esteban Ocon has been participating in online Gran Turismo events, however.

AlphaTauri: Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly

AlphaTauri is another team which hasn’t had either of its drivers on the grid so far. The team told RaceFans Daniil Kvyat does not want to participate in the series while Dubai-based Pierre Gasly does not have access to a suitable PC he can use. They ran Red Bull Junior Team driver Liam Lawson last weekend alongside footballer Ciro Immobile.

Racing Point: Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll

Again, Racing Point’s two drivers are yet to join a Virtual Grand Prix. The team say they are in discussions over how to get Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll into the series, and while they have some logistical problems to overcome, they hope it will happen “soon”.

Alfa Romeo: Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi

Antonio Giovinazzi joined the Virtual Grand Prix series at the second round and finished fifth, but was sidelined by technical problems last weekend.

However Alfa Romeo say Kimi Raikkonen does not have his simracing equipment with him at his current location, and won’t be joining the series for the foreseeable future.

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Haas: Romain Grosjean and Kevin Mganussen

Grosjean is expected to join the series
Expect to see Romain Grosjean joining a Virtual Grand Prix soon, possibly next weekend. He has recently acquired a simracing rig and is keen to join in. However the same can’t be said for Kevin Magnussen, who has ruled out participating.

Williams: George Russell and Nicholas Latifi

A round of applause for Williams, which was the first team to get both its drivers into the series. With car performance levels set to equal in the series, George Russell was able to his competitive streak last weekend, vehemently arguing against a penalty which cost him a front-row start before aggressively fighting his way through the field.

Video: Which F1 drivers will – and won’t – join the Virtual GPs?

Over to you

Which F1 drivers do you most want to see in a Virtual Grand Prix? And who should replace those who won’t join in? Have your say in the comments.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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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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  • 14 comments on “Can F1 get close to a full grid of drivers for its Virtual Grands Prix?”

    1. You mean ‘temporarily’ Dubai-based. He’s Milan-based actually but has been taking refuge in Dubai with his trainer after leaving Melbourne due to the situation in Europe and Italy especially.

    2. I was not too excited about the virtual china GP.

      It is better to focus on having a real race soon, but without any audience, somewhere (anywhere actually, doesn’t matter where)

      The sim racing F1 lacks stragety… and a lot more. But the strategy and tire management, radio with the team etc… really makes the whole atmosphere.

      1. That’s what you have with the IndyCar sim racing. All drivers are utilizing at least their lead engineer, some using multiple team personnel for qualifying & race strategy and spotting on ovals. It’s surprisingly good.

    3. I dont understand why many of them arent doing it. Its not like they are doing much else right now, and they are still being paid (even with pay cuts) by their teams. When you compare their involvement with the NBA or other leagues, it’s pretty appalling.

    4. Es gibt kein PC auf Dubai.

      1. @Jockey Ewing Non-English post alert, LOL.

        1. Hehe, sorry, its a reference to the funny song titled “Es gibt kein bier auf Hawaii”, as I think it would not be too difficult for an F1 driver to get a nice PC or a sim rig at one of the most money driven and car fanatic region of the world. I guess if F1 or Codemasters would invest to buy a rig for all of the F1 drivers, that would result in better PR than things currently going on. As many of them already have one it would cost some 10k$’s for the remaining ones, definitely less than their advertising costs. But I think F1 drivers “pay grades” are far above for example Nascar of Austrailan supercars’ participants’, and top earning employees are often more free to participate or not to participate at coroprate events and harder to regulate. Can you imagine firing an F1 driver or loosing his sponsors for a ragequit at a simrace like it happened to Bubba Wallace. I can’t really imagine that’s happening to F1 drivers who are all payed 1M$+/year at the current state of the world. I think if someone just quits without doing other rude things would not have the same consequences at F1.

          I think the main problem with the Codemasters’ game is that it’s not challening drivers at this level in terms of car control, so the only fields they can show their skills is racecraft and strategy. Although that racecraft would be enough to beat a non top tier sim driver after they practiced the game a bit. While the advantage of the guys who live in a simracing cockpit is knowing small bugs, exploits, and other game specific subtleties which summed up can give some tenths per lap advantage at most games. I have seen guys at Codemasters F1 for example altering fuel mix and brake balance for literally every corner, thats quite busy at that pace, and of course no sim modeling the real world perfectly, so guys with that mileage have a lot of experience with the differences.

    5. Kimi is not amused

    6. It’s a shame they’re still trying to sell the F1 2019 game as a sim, as a semi serious arcade game to get people interested in F1 and pretend they’re racing with their favourite drivers it does a good job but pretending it’s a suitable platform for a serious esports series for real F1 drivers is pushing it a bit. The IndyCar iracing series is a much better spectator spectacle because it does a better job of duplicating real racing rather than just providing eye-candy

    7. So. Several drivers do not want to participate. How about the factory based Sim drivers most teams seem to have. Possibly in their Factory Sim.
      PS Equalising performance on the cars. Gives drivers from the back of the grid chance to show their skills and quality. Here it can be all about the driver, not the big money technology backing.

    8. ” since I had kids, it’s not the first thing on my list to do.” >> So true Seb, soooo true.

    9. Indycar have made f1 look silly. 2020 cars and drivers, almost the full field of drivers and a more hardcore sim to race on.

      The fact lando Norris is driving the indycar race this weekend says a lot!!

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