Williams’ George Russell admits that he didn’t expect the Formula 1 Virtual Series to be as competitive as it is.
The Briton made his debut in the official F1 Esports series, designed to replace the real-life races lost due to the coronavrius pandemic, at Round Two ‘in Australia’.
He would finish P3 at a virtual Albert Park, and alongside fellow F1 drivers Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Nicholas Latifi, Alex Albon and Antonio Giovinazzi will do battle again ‘in China’ for Round Three of the series on Sunday.
Russell admitted that he first signed up for the series in-search of a bit of fun, but he underestimated the standard of competition.
“That’s the goal, that’s the aim [to win],” he told the Evening Standard.
“I signed up to the Virtual Grand Prix for a bit of fun and to keep the fans entertained. I wasn’t taking it too serious, but I soon realised that the level is very high. These guys have put in a lot of practice, so I need to see how I get on.
“It’s not awfully realistic when you compare the game versus driving a real racing car because when you get in, you’re going 200mph. But it’s all I’ve got at the moment.”
Esports also gives people the chance to stay connected with eachother at a time when we are being forced to socially distance ourselves, and Russell says it has been a “shock to the system” for him.
“That’s been the biggest shock to the system: not meeting with friends and having a social life, as it is for everybody,” he said.
“I’m in daily contact with friends, over texts and FaceTime video. I joined Houseparty [a mobile app that allows several people to video chat] the other day to help me stay in contact. At the moment, time is passing by nicely.”
While real-life Formula 1 racing seems a world away right now, Russell is keeping in regular contact with Williams’ deputy team principal Claire Williams.
“I’m speaking to Claire twice a week, we had a video chat for 40 minutes the other day about just general life. I’ve got a great relationship with her,” he confirmed.