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Formula 1: Leclerc Dominates in Virtual GP Debut

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has picked up his first win of the Formula 1 season… the F1 Virtual Grand Prix season, that is.

The 22-year-old was one of six F1 current drivers to take part in the second staging of the Virtual Grand Prix — they raced around Australian Grand Prix’s Albert Park track in Melbourne, on Codemasters’ F1 2019 game — and came out on top.

Meanwhile, Lando Norris is also making news during this coronavirus-induced hiatus. The McLaren driver had quite an eventful race as he continues to entertain SBOTOP Formula 1 fans amid the pandemic.

 

Charles Leclerc wins Virtual Australian Grand Prix

Charles Leclerc finished a disappointing fifth in last year’s Australian Grand Prix, but he made massive improvements while racing in a virtual Albert Park as he dominated his debut Virtual Grand Prix race.

Leclerc beat out five other current F1 drivers — Lando Norris, Alex Albon, George Russell, Nicholas Latifi, and Antonio Giovinazzi to claim the chequered flag. Other notable players who took part were former world champion Jenson Button as well as cricket star Ben Stokes.

Leclerc admitted that the virtual race gave him quite the mental workout, but it was worth it to provide people at home with some fun.

“I’m sweating like crazy,” Leclerc said afterwards. “The muscles are not hurting, but the concentration level is high and I have been sweating quite a lot.

“It’s obviously a very tough moment for everyone staying at home but we tried our best to entertain.”

The Ferrari driver also admitted he had been practising the game for five hours a day over the last week in preparation of the race.

The next F1 Virtual Grand Prix is set to take place over the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, which was scheduled for April 17-19 before being postponed due to the pandemic.

Based on his showing in Australia, the Formula 1 2020 odds should favour Leclerc to make it two wins out of two.

 

Lando Norris steals the show despite no-show

Lando Norris was suddenly kicked out of the Formula 1 Virtual Grand Prix
McLaren’s Lando Norris poses in front of the camera during the Australian GP

Leclerc may have claimed the win, but it was Lando Norris who had the most memorable Formula 1 2020 highlights during the Virtual GP.

The McLaren driver, who had technical difficulties during the first Virtual GP a couple of weeks ago, was suddenly kicked out of the game due to a system error just before the race began.

As a result, Norris decided to take on the role of commentator, to the delight of the viewers on his Twitch stream.

Norris called up Max Verstappen, who opted not to take part in the race, and the Red Bull driver jokingly suggested Norris quit the game as well. While Norris didn’t throw out his computer, he did uninstall the game live on Twitch.

Norris has been quite busy on Twitch these days. Just a couple of days ago, he shaved off his head live on his feed. Norris had pledged to shed his hair if he surpassed $10,000 in donations for coronavirus aid, and he made good on that promise after raising over $12,000.

This isn’t the only step Norris has taken to help out amid the pandemic. He and McLaren team-mate Carlos Sainz had recently agreed to take a pay cut as the team had to furlough staff due to the coronavirus.

 

McLaren boss makes serious warning

Norris’ McLaren boss Zak Brown sent a serious warning to Formula 1, claiming that the sport is in a “very fragile state” and will need to make big changes to survive.

Brown believes the £143m budget cap, which is set to be enforced in 2021, needs to be lowered significantly, or the sport risks a potential disaster.

“Could I see – through what is going on right now in the world if we don’t tackle this situation head on very aggressively – two teams disappearing? Yeah,” said Brown in an interview with BBC.

“In fact, I could see four teams disappearing if this isn’t handled the right way.”

F1 teams have already agreed on changes to cut costs, which include a delay to big rule changes slated for 2021 until 2022, due to the significant drop in revenue caused by the coronavirus.

But Brown believes the budget cap must be set even lower. His argument for a lower budget cap is that it would even the playing field and give smaller teams a better chance to compete.

It remains to be seen what the long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic will have on F1. But if it continues to the point where the 2020 season is outright cancelled, then F1 may have no choice but to heed Brown’s call to lower the cap even more.

 

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