Albon brings an end to Leclerc’s dominance

Finley Crebolder
Alex Albon

Alex Albon has received a welcome vote of confidence from Dr Helmut Marko, who said the Red Bull driver “did great” in the Belgian Grand Prix.

Having won the last two, Charles Leclerc headed into the latest Virtual Grand Prix as heavy favourite, but Alex Albon had other ideas…

Six drivers from the 2020 grid took part in the fourth race of the series, with Carlos Sainz the only one to drop out from last time. They competed alongside the likes of AC Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli and England cricketers Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes.

However, it was former F1 driver who took pole position, in the form of Stoffel Vandoorne. The Belgian started in P1 just ahead of George Russell with Albon, Leclerc, Antonio Giovinazzi and Nicholas Latifi occupying positions P5 to P8. Due to connection issues, Lando Norris started in P20.

Vandoorne quickly undid all of his good work as he spun at the start, with Albon and Leclerc taking advantage to take the top two spots. Much like in the last round, they then began to pull away, with Russell and Giovinazzi doing battle behind them.

Russell quickly passed the Italian, and his Williams team-mate Latifi tried to follow suit. However, he and Giovinazzi clashed, sending the Canadian into the wall and Giovinazzi out of the race.

Up ahead, the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers continually traded positions up until Lap 13 when Leclerc dived into the pits for hard tyres. Albon did the same three laps later, opting for medium tyres.

The Thai driver came out just behind Leclerc but, with softer, fresher tyres, quickly passed the Monegasque. However, Leclerc immediately took the lead back and the two did battle for six laps before Albon finally got and stayed ahead.

Things then went from bad to worse for Leclerc as he picked up a three-second time penalty. With Russell also on the quicker medium tyre, it looked as if P2 was now in jeopardy for him. Despite this, he continued to attack Albon and try to retake the lead.

From lap 28 downwards, the two constantly traded blows with overtakes aplenty at Turns 1 and 4. This battling allowed Russell to close the gap to under three seconds, giving them a chance of getting P2 at the least.

Albon headed into the final lap just ahead of Leclerc, with Russell just over two seconds behind the front two. He managed to hold track position and cross the line in P1, while Leclerc failed to stay threes seconds clear of Russell, giving the Williams man P2.

Elsewhere, Vandoorne recovered to finish in P4 just ahead of virtual Mercedes team-mate Esteban Gutierrez, while Lando Norris and Nicholas Latifi finished in the final two points-scoring places.

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