Formula 1 and other esports: Stoffel Vandoorne makes history. Sort of – BBC Sport


Lando Norris on Twitter
Lando Norris had an interesting weekend’s racing

Stoffel Vandoorne is fast – too fast.

In one weekend the Mercedes Formula E driver managed to qualify on pole position on Saturday and Sunday in two different races. And upon starting said races, he crashed spectacularly within a few yards of the green lights.

If it was real life, he would have made some sort of dubious motorsport history – but it is, or course, part of the madness that is the new normal of esports sim racing.

Vandoorne’s huge connection with the wall on Saturday during Formula E’s Race At Home Challenge left him pretty much intact and able to finish fifth.

Yes, the esports series – available to watch every Saturday afternoon on BBC iPlayer, Red Button and the BBC Sport website – is supposed to have cars which sustain 80% of the damage they would do in real life in the event of an impact. But Vandoorne’s car purred along throughout this race, set in an undetermined container depot port location, after piling into the wall.

Highlights: Max Gunther wins action-packed second Formula E Race At Home Challenge

BMW iAndretti’s Max Gunther won the race – the second round out of nine – his third win in a row if you count the series’ test race.

On to Brazil

In Formula 1’s official esports series on Sunday night, Belgian ex-McLaren F1 man Vandoorne will have been relieved to know drivers do not sustain any damage, after he somehow managed to cause yet another enormous shunt by getting the F1 Mercedes sideways off the line and into the wall.

In normal circumstances he would have had a short walk back to the pits after – hopefully – walking away from a pile of carbon fibre. But, of course, he carried on to finish fourth at Interlagos, Sao Paulo, where fans had previously voted to race.

Without coronavirus, ‘real’ Formula 1 would have visited Holland this weekend for the Dutch Grand Prix – but games programmers haven’t yet developed the re-constructed Zandvoort circuit in the esports world.

One major beneficiary from Vandoorne’s madness was Red Bull’s Alex Albon, driving the car he usually does, steaming into the lead after Vandoorne’s crash.

He then had an epic race-long battle with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc – who was looking to win what felt like his 15,000th race since the lockdown began.

The pair swapped the lead nine times across 36 laps before Albon eventually held off the Ferrari driver – who finished third after a penalty – after he had already lost out on Saturday in Veloce’s Not The GP Series Reverse Grid race following a penalty. The interestingly titled regular esports racer TRL Limitless won.

Battles of the celebs

Golfer Ian Poulter made a return to racing in the Reverse Grid race after crashing while being interviewed in the last official F1 esports race in ‘China’.

He finished a respectable 11th after following Real Madrid’s goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois home after the pair fell to the back of the order early on – so something to build on against the professional drivers.

But Sports Personality of the Year winner and top all-round cricketer Ben Stokes claimed bragging rights against former England batsman Stuart Broad.

“I’m sweating, but it looks like I’ll have to pull [Broads] pants back up after this,” said Stokes before nearly crashing during his mid-race interview, al a Poulter.

Stokes finished in 13th, four places ahead of Broad, and just three behind McLaren’s Lando Norris who had a bit of an off day – quite possibly because of his huge IndyCar shunt the previous day.

Still, not huge enough to take the somewhat unwanted attention away from poor old Vandoorne.

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