Russell cruises to win second straight Virtual GP

Date published: May 24 2020

George Russell handed Merc tests amidst Lewis Hamilton/Ferrari rumours

George Russell dominated the Virtual Monaco Grand Prix, leading every lap, to join Charles Leclerc on two wins apiece.

Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas both made their debuts in the sixth race of the series, taking the number of F1 drivers to eight, the highest yet. Also appearing for the first time were Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Luis Fonsi and Nicolas Prost.

There was a shock on the cards in qualifying, with Pietro Fittipaldi mastering the rain to put his Haas on pole position, ahead of George Russell and David Schumacher. The rest of the top 10 was full of F1 drivers, with Charles Leclerc, Antonio Giovinazzi, Bottas, Lando Norris and Alex Albon in P5, P7, P8, P9 and P10 respectively. The other Leclerc, Arthur, finished the session in P6.

A chaotic first few corners of the race saw George Russell take the lead with Bottas dropping back to P19 ahead of Giovinazzi who left the session almost immediately. Chasing Russell were the Leclerc brothers and Schumacher, with Fittipaldi in P5.

With five laps gone, the dreaded time-penalties began to pile up, with Norris and Charles Leclerc among the guilty drivers. Things were even worse for Albon however, who span after battling Esteban Gutierrez and dropped down to P9.

Arthur Leclerc, on softer tyres, pitted just before Lap 10 and was quickly followed in by his brother, giving Russell a huge 17-second lead at the front. The Ferrari boys came out in P7 and P10 respectively.

As the leader stayed out, the drivers from P2 to P7, including Norris, Albon and the Leclercs did battle. With damage turned off, it became akin to bumper cars, with Norris and the younger Leclerc crashing at Turn 1. All this played into the hands of Russell who continued to pull away.

The Brit finally came in for a tyre change on Lap 29 to put on sorts. He came out still leading, 14 seconds ahead of Charles Leclerc. Behind them, Guiterrez, who was making Max Verstappen’s moves look tame, overtook Arthur Leclerc around the outside of Turn 1 to move into the final podium position.

With five laps left, Russell asserted his dominance by setting the fastest lap of the race. P2 meanwhile began a battle between Leclerc Senior and Gutierrez, with the former’s tyres being 13 laps fresher. The two came together in the tunnel with two laps to go, with Gutierrez holding it together to move up to P2 and Leclerc spinning to drop down to the final podium spot.

The other Leclerc also lost a battle late on, with Albon passing him to take P4. Way ahead, Russell crossed the line to take his second straight win of the series, 36 seconds ahead of Gutierrez’s Mercedes.

He now has two wins in the series, the same amount as Leclerc. Behind them are Albon and Guanyu Zhou on one each.

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