Enzo Fittipaldi wins first race of virtual GP series

Brazilian Enzo Fittipaldi, grandson of double Formula One world champion Emerson, won the first virtual grand prix of the year for Haas on Sunday after a scrap with Arthur Leclerc, younger brother of Ferrari driver Charles.

The 19-year-old won the 36 lap race around a video version of Austria’s Red Bull Ring after the starting grid was set in a sprint race featuring professional gamers from the F1 esports series.

That five lap opener was won by Ferrari’s 2019 esports champion David Tonizza, ensuring New Zealand’s F2 driver Marcus Armstrong — a Ferrari Driver Academy member — started the feature race on pole.

Leclerc started third thanks to the efforts of double esports champion Brendon Leigh in his first race for Ferrari after leaving Mercedes.

Leclerc was passed by Fittipaldi on lap 28 and dropped to third at the finish, behind Mercedes’ Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne when penalties were applied.

Real Madrid and Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, representing Alfa Romeo, set the fastest lap of the race.

The virtual Grand Prix series consists of three races on successive weekends, with the other two on virtual Silverstone and Interlagos circuits.

Formula One staged virtual grands prix with gamers, celebrities and some of the teams’ real drivers last year to provide entertainment while the season was on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The eight races staged were watched by more than 30 million people, according to Formula One, with Williams’ George Russell emerging as the winner.

Russell had to withdraw from Sunday’s race but Canadian team mate Nicholas Latifi took part. Former F1 drivers competing were Vandoorne, Anthony Davidson, Alexander Albon, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Fittipaldi’s older brother Pietro.

This year’s races have a charity prize fund with teams’ winnings going to the causes of their choice.

The real Formula One season starts in Bahrain on March 28.

www.espn.com – RPM