Williams’ George Russell and Red Bull’s Alex Albon are among the first group of drivers to be confirmed for the returning Virtual GP series.
Formula 1 launched its first Virtual Grand Prix series prior to the delayed 2020 season, and it proved to be a success in the absence of real-life racing. Though some drivers did state their preference for other Esports competitions which they felt were more serious.
The second series is set to get underway on Sunday with the season-opener around the virtual Red Bull Ring in Austria.
Russell will be taking part in the event alongside Williams team-mate Nicholas Latifi. As it stands they are the only drivers from the 2021 Formula 1 grid set to compete.
They will be joined by Alex Albon who is not part of the 2021 grid after Red Bull demoted him to test and reserve driver, bringing in Sergio Perez for the 2021 campaign.
Many of the remaining teams on the grid look set to give the opportunity to their junior drivers.
Renault will be represented by Academy duo Oscar Piastri and Christian Lundgaard. Both were involved in series one, and in real-life competition went on to find further success.
Piastri would secure the 2020 Formula 3 Championship, while Lundgaard took two race wins on his way to P7 in the Formula 2 Championship.
Pietro Fittipaldi, who stood in for the injured Romain Grosjean at Haas for the final two races of the 2020 campaign, will represent the American outfit at the Red Bull Ring alongside his brother Enzo Fittipaldi, a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy.
Ferrari are making sure to get as many of their juniors involved as possible with Marcus Armstrong and Arthur Leclerc taking the virtual wheel for the Scuderia. This will be Armstrong’s first involvement in the Formula 1 Virtual Grand Prix series.
Snubbed by Mercedes for the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix when Sir Lewis Hamilton’s seat was going spare, Stoffel Vandoorne has been entrusted by Mercedes to take part in the virtual Austrian GP.
AlphaTauri have confirmed that fellow Italian and ex-F1 racer Vitantonio Liuzzi shall be in action for them.
There will be fewer rounds this time around, with three taking place on consecutive weekends starting at the Red Bull Ring.
Furthermore, there has been a change to the format, and unlike in 2020, World Championship standings will be included from the start.
“Over 30m people tuned into the Virtual Grand Prix series last year to see F1 stars, sporting icons and music chart-toppers represent the ten F1 teams in eight live events that replaced the official calendar, as F1 Esports continued to bring fans competitive action when the real-life racing stopped due to the pandemic,” an official statement read.
“The Virtual Grands Prix will return on Sunday 31 January for three events on consecutive weekends, where the ten teams will battle it out for a charity prize fund, represented by a combination of F1 drivers past and present, celebrities and F1 Esports Series gamers.
“The format has been altered since last year’s events, as the pro gamers will now take part in a five-lap Sprint Race to determine the grid order for the Feature Race, where the teams’ duos, made up of the participating famous faces, will then compete at 50% race distance to secure points for the overall standings.
“The team championship standings will be tracked across the events and will determine how the prize fund is then distributed to their nominated charities.”