Albon penalty hands Russell Virtual British GP win

Finley Crebolder
Alex Albon and George Russell

Alex Albon and George Russell

George Russell made it five Virtual GP wins from his last five races on his return, despite the best efforts of Alex Albon.

Russell, the stand-out driver from the 2020 races, was forced to pull out of the first event of 2021. In his absence, Enzo Fittipaldi took victory, and the Brit was keen to show he was still boss.

In the sprint race that decided the started grid, contested by Esports Pro Series driver, the Ferrari of Brendan Leigh took victory, ensuring Callum Ilott would start on pole, just ahead of Albon and Thibaut Courtois, while Russell lined up in P5.

Ilott made an excellent start to stay in the lead and behind him, Courtois overtook Albon in stunning style while Russell immediately moved up to P4. The Red Bull then tried to pass the Real Madrid keeper and was forced wide, allowing the Williams man to squeeze through.

On lap 3, both Russell and Albon moved past Courtois and set off in pursuit of a rapid Ilott. Outside the top four, the Fittipaldi brothers, who were so impressive in the first Virtual GP of 2021, settled down in P5 and P6 before also overtaking the Belgian.

As the four behind closed up, Ilott continued to cruise at the front, maintaining a lead of around three seconds. With Russell and Albon on mediums and the rest of the top five on softs though, strategy was sure to change things up.

Ilott came in on lap 10 and rejoined in P9 while, at the same time, Albon passed Russell to take the lead of the race and pull away from his rival before being handed a three-second penalty for exceeding track limits. With the Fittipaldis also pitting, the two were on their own at the front at the halfway point of the race.

That wasn’t the case for long though as Albon pitted for softs soon after, coming out a few seconds behind Ilott, while Russell followed suit a lap later behind both and just ahead of Enzo Fittipaldi. With pit stops done and dusted, the battle for the win was on.

With fresher, softer tyres than the leader, Albon moved up to P1 on lap 17 with a tidy pass. A lap later, Russell followed him through.

Ilott all but fell out of the running for the win soon afterwards when he was handed a time penalty. Russell was now the only one of the top three not to have one and was thus favourite to take victory.

All he had to do was stay close to Albon, but he wanted to pass the Thai driver on track and did just that with two laps to go.

On the final lap, the two swapped positions yet again, but it didn’t matter, as with the penalties applied, Russell made it five from five in his Virtual GP endeavours, while Ilott completed the podium ahead of Pietro and Enzo Fittipaldi.

Further back, Russell’s team-mate both in real life and on the game, Nicholas Latifi, took P7, looking far better than he did in the series opener. If he can make an equally big step forward next week, he could well get involved in the battle at the front.

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