Young Ferrari Driver Academy student Dino Beganovic finished ninth in the Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix, held tonight on the Sakhir circuit as represented on the official Formula 1 game. This is the platform normally used for the F1 Esports Series, which last year was won by FDA Hublot Esports Team driver, David Tonizza. For Dino, who was playing from Linkoping in Sweden, this event marked his debut in Ferrari colours, given that the Italian Formula 4 Championship which he is contesting this year has yet to start. Robert Shwartzman, playing from St. Petersburg, Russia, unfortunately had to retire because of a problem with his set up, when he was in the top ten and preparing to attack in the closing stages. The race was won by former FDA student, China’s Guan Yu Zhou (Renault).
Qualifying. In a hectic 18-minute qualifying session, Dino and Robert, driving the FDA Hublot Esports Team cars, set the seventh and eighth times, having to avoid the less experienced drivers who could often be found sideways across the track. They chose their tyres based on the race distance of 28 laps, 50% of the actual Grand Prix distance. However, a series of technical problems led the race director to reduce the number of laps to 14 (25%), which partly spoilt the strategy choices of the two FDA guys.
The race. When the five red lights went out at the Sakhir track, Beganovic was immediately in trouble, having been hit by another car, which dropped him to the back of the field. Shwartzman was also involved in a collision in the early stages with Stoffel Vandoorne, losing several places. In the second part of the race, Dino fought his way through the field in great style, getting as high as ninth at the flag, while Robert was let down by his gaming rig which meant he had to retire.
Replacing the real track action. The Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix was round 1 of the “We Race On” programme, promoted by Formula 1 to put on a bit of a show on the weekends when there were due to be Grands Prix, unfortunately cancelled in this first part of the season because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Sakhir should have been hosting the second race of the year today, hence the virtual exhibition event. At the moment there are four more rounds scheduled: on 5 April, the original date of the Vietnamese GP, contestants will race in Australia, on 19 April in China, 3 May in Monaco and 10 May in Spain.