Conclusions from the Virtual Grand Prix

Mark Scott
Virtual GP Codemasters

George Russell and Alex Albon among drivers confirmed for virtual Austrian GP.

Justice for Lando, more Ferrari questions and could more driver axes be on the way at Red Bull? It’s time for conclusions from the Virtual Grand Prix.

The need for consistency

Lando Norris may have let us all down with his incredibly safe head shave earlier in the week but even he doesn’t deserve the treatment he has been receiving so far in the Virtual Grand Prix series.

For the second race in the row, Lando has had connection issues and, in the first race in Bahrain, the stewards made adjustments in order for the McLaren driver to rejoin.

This time around in Vietnam, Australia? Nothing. The official YouTube stream was spammed with messages demanding that the race should be restarted to allow Lando to rejoin but the stewards, remarkably, did nothing.

Inconsistency amongst the stewards is hardly a new issue in Formula 1, but it is clear that Michael Masi still has a lot of work ahead of him in order to prevent severe injustices like this one happening again.

In a stand similar to Sebastian Vettel’s switching of the number one and two boards in Canada last year, Lando followed Max Verstappen’s advice and effectively threw the game in the bin by uninstalling it.

Some may call it childish, we call it a necessary act which will hopefully improve the integrity of the sport in the long run. Justice for Lando.

So Ferrari were sandbagging

We bloody knew it. After a role reversal in pre-season testing which saw Ferrari do everything possible to stay out of the limelight, they turn up to Australia and absolutely smash the opposition. Switching over to the Mercedes playbook clearly worked.

Ok, they didn’t immediately turn up in Bahrain with Dino Beganovic’s P9 as good as it got for the Ferrari in the opening round, but with star man Charles Leclerc back in action this time he was able to show that the Ferrari car has lost none of its engine power and also looks to have addressed the inefficiencies in the corners during the winter.

However, with the F1 2019 game being used, Ferrari are still using their 2019 engine, which has been made possible by the FIA’s inconclusive findings into their investigation and only a ‘private agreement’ with the Scuderia to show from it.

We don’t think it will be long until the likes of Red Bull reignite the engine saga and rightly so. We all need firm answers to ensure everything is above board so any further wins for Ferrari can be viewed purely on merit rather than under more scrutiny.

We don’t mean to detract away from Charles Leclerc, who is clearly thriving now that a 1-2 driver role has been re-established with him now leading the attack and his brother, Arthur, acting as rear gunner.

Williams are back!

We are sure that you, like us, shed a little tear of joy seeing Williams back on the podium again for the first time since 2017.

It’s been an incredibly tough couple of years at the bottom of the F1 basement for the fallen giants, but George Russell’s superb first start of the season with a P3 finish has given us all hope that their darkest days are well and truly behind them.

Of course, George is by no means the finished product, as shown in the build-up as he triggered a nasty collision with Arthur Leclerc. But, once he irons out those remaining creases, he is sure to be in with a excellent chance of grabbing a Mercedes seat in future.

The prospect of a potential Ferrari v Williams showdown at the next round in China is making us froth at the mouth already.

Red Bull drivers under pressure

If Alex Albon or cricketer turned F1 driver Ben Stokes get a call from Helmut Marko this week, just let it go to voicemail.

It only took one race for the brutal treatment at Red Bull to begin with Philipp Eng, who finished on the podium in Bahrain, to be cruelly axed in favour of a bigger star attraction in the form of an England superstar.

Stokes, whose Test and ODI averages were added together and converted into superlicence points to allow him to race, finished a lap down on Sunday, which came as no surprise unfortunately given how inexperienced he is.

His saving grace could be that he still managed to give an actual, multiple-time Grand Prix winner in the form of Johnny Herbert, who is quickly cementing himself as the Mahaveer Raghunathan of the Virtual Grand Prix world, a run for his money.

Albon, meanwhile, put in an excellent recovery drive after falling all the way towards the back because of a first-lap collision.

However, Marko is certainly not going to tolerate many more P8 finishes and Albon, like Stokes, must be seriously concerned about their future.

No wonder Max Verstappen is staying away.

Mark Scott

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