Conclusions from the Virtual Monaco Grand Prix

Date published: May 25 2020

Arthur Leclerc Ferrari

Indestructible cars aren’t good, the “other” Leclerc brother is, and virtual racing around street circuits is, er, interesting…

Here are the conclusions we came to following the Virtual Monaco Grand Prix…

Damage the cars or damage the racing 

Watching the latest race of the series, we couldn’t help but think back to a classic Sebastian Vettel quote: “Honestly, what are we doing here? Racing or ping pong?”.

Look, we understand the thinking behind F1 removing damage for the virtual races. There are a lot of celebrities who have never done sim racing before; if they were to come on board for an event, bringing a number of fans with them, only to crash and retire immediately, it would be somewhat anti-climatic.

However, there’s a point where racing with indestructible cars just makes the races feel too far off the real thing, and that point came in Monaco. There were cars crashing into each other, into the walls and, with no consequences for doing so, they happily did it again and again and again in order to gain an advantage.

Yes, we know, it’s just a game. However, the purpose of the series was to fill the void left by the lack of real-life racing. When the racing is closer to an arcade game than the real thing, it fails to do so effectively.

The main issue is that, at a track like this, having realistic damage would wipe out most non-professional racers almost immediately while having it off makes the racing quite frankly ridiculous. It’s really a lose-lose situation, which brings us on to our next point…

Give the street circuits a miss

Anybody interested in F1 will know just how difficult the likes of Monaco, Baku and Singapore are. In real life, it’s fascinating to see the drivers navigate the narrow street circuits. In the virtual series, however, it’s challenging nature causes more issues than entertainment.

We’ve already spoken about the problems that turning damage off caused, but it was by no means the only one. Penalties remained on strict to punish people for cutting corners, and nearly every single driver picked up multiple time-penalties for doing so. Like in any form of racing, we’d much rather on-track battles rather than these decide the outcome of the race.

If they want to do street circuit races, they should limit them to professional drivers so that damage can be turned on and the penalties will be less regular. If they want to keep inviting people from outside motorsport, however, they should stay well away. That way, the footballers, musicians and whoever else can survive a race with damage turned on and avoid racking up a ridiculous number of penalties.

This will lead to better on-track battles, give the non-racing drivers a fighting chance (although there is something amusing about Luis Fonsi, a man famous for a song that translates to “slowly”, running a long way back in last place) and just make for far better races in general. The cars may look great under the lights in Singapore on the game, but it’s really not worth it.

There’s something in that Leclerc blood

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ll be well aware that Charles Leclerc is as good at virtual racing as he is at the real thing. His brother Arthur’s performance in the latest race suggests that it’s something that runs in the family.

We were given a glimpse of this earlier in the series, but he made sure to remind those who may have forgotten this time around. Having already won a virtual F2 race earlier in the day, he immediately impressed by qualifying in P6, less than a tenth slower than his brother. He maintained this pace in the race, quickly moving up to P2 behind only George Russell.

He held position there until he pitted and then made his way through the field impressively. At the halfway point he found himself battling Lando Norris, Esteban Gutierrez and his brother, and would have prevailed to get back to P2 and perhaps even finish there had it not been for an almighty shunt from the McLaren man.

Two brothers haven’t raced against each other in F1 since the days of Michael and Ralf Schumacher. If Arthur turns out to be as good in a real car as he is in a virtual one, he may well change that sooner rather than later. Yes, it’s a big if, but the more we see of him, the more we hope it happens. He may want to stay away from Lando, though…

Finley Crebolder

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