Virtual GP: Arthur Leclerc on the podium, Marcus Armstrong sixth

Maranello 31 January 2021

The Ferrari Driver Academy Esports Team got off to a brilliant start as the Virtual GP series returned, with Arthur Leclerc and Marcus Armstrong finishing third and sixth in the race run on the Austrian circuit. Today’s event was the first of three rounds that make up a 2021 mini-championship over three consecutive weekends, ending on 14 February. Not only is it entertaining for the fans but it is also raising money for charity as a pot of 100,000 US dollars is being split between the ten teams based on their final positions in the classification.

New format. The new format involves the sim drivers from each team tackling a one lap qualifying session followed by a five-lap Sprint Race. Lining up for the FDA Esports Team on the Spielberg layout were David Tonizza and Brendon Leigh. They produced an excellent performance with “Tonzilla” securing pole position and Brendon taking fourth. In the Sprint Race, Tonizza, the 2019 world champion got the best start and led all the way to the flag, while Leigh had a great fight, managing to pass Marcel Kiefer in the Red Bull on the final lap to get to the podium on his debut with the FDA Esports Team, third behind Dani Moreno for Mercedes.

Feature Race. In the long race therefore, the two real racers in the FDA Esports Team made the most of the sim drivers’ achievement. Marcus Armstrong was making his debut in a virtual race and started from pole, while Arthur Leclerc lined up third. Marcus kept the lead from Anthony Davidson for Mercedes, the Englishman soon making a mistake which let Leclerc through to second. On the second lap, the Monegasque overtook Armstrong who tucked in behind his team-mate. At half distance, both FDA Esports Team drivers made the mandatory pit stop, with Leclerc racing very aggressively after that, rapidly making up places to ensure he was back in the lead when the others pitted.

Final part. In the middle part of the race, Enzo Fittipaldi, another FDA trained driver, split the two Ferraris in the Haas. The Brazilian pulled off an undercut, making an early stop to jump his rivals and moved up the order, even passing Leclerc with 9 laps remaining. But the Monegasque had not given up the fight yet and got back in the lead. However, with two laps to go, he again lost it to Fittipaldi who thus took the win. Arthur crossed the line second, but a penalty for exceeding track limits dropped him behind Stoffel Vandoorne (Mercedes) but he still ended up on the podium for the first time in a Virtual GP, having finished fourth in Vietnam and fifth in Monaco last year. Armstrong was eventually passed by Vandoorne, Alex Albon (Red Bull) and Pietro Fittipaldi (Haas) to finish a nevertheless honourable sixth. FDA Esports Team is thus second in the classification behind Haas.

Next round. The next Virtual GP takes place next Sunday when the sim racers and real drivers will be racing on the Silverstone layout, home to the British Grand Prix.