Max Verstappen loses to Esport pros after virus shuts down F1

Max Verstappen was just one racer to compete in an Esport racing simulation over the weekend to fill the gap left by the coronavirus-caused cancellation of Sunday’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull Formula One driver shone but finished only 11th in an ‘All-star Esports battle’ that was streamed by an estimated 50,000 viewers around the world.

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The 12 lap race around a virtual version of the Nuerburgring, a German track no longer on the F1 calendar, was won by Slovenian Jernej Simoncic and dominated by leading professional gamers.

Organisers The Race and parent company Torque Esports had assembled a field of real world drivers along with top simulator racers with a total prize pot of $10,000 and $4,000 for the winner.

Motorsports fans have been starved of action by the coronavirus with the Formula One, Formula E, IndyCar, MotoGP and world rally championships all halted by the spreading virus.

McLaren Shadow’s Kevin Siggy was second with Rudy Van Buren, winner of the inaugural 2017 World’s Fastest Gamer competition and the prize of a simulator role with McLaren, finishing in third place.

Swedish IndyCar driver and former Formula E race winner Felix Rosenqvist was the highest-ranked real world driver in seventh place. American Colton Herta, another IndyCar driver, was 10th.

Verstappen took pole position and won one of the three qualifying heats but qualified ninth for the final, which The Race said was watched by at least 50,000 online viewers, using rFactor’s Formula ISI 2012 package.

The Dutch 22-year-old spun at the first corner, dropping to 18th, but then showed all his real world overtaking skills and aggression by carving his way back up despite another spin setback.

Others who took part in the heats included Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and former F1 drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Rubens Barrichello, as well as their respective sons, and double Formula One esports champion Brendon Leigh.

“Shame we didn’t make the final. Got tangled in someone else’s shunt. Need to work on it as well. Was an amazing event. Can’t wait for the next one,” commented Montoya on Twitter.

Max Verstappen looks forward and smiles with his Red Bull hat.
Max Verstappen was one of a few drivers to take part in an Esport driving tournament on the weekend. (Getty Images)

F1 season delayed

Formula One bosses are set to delay the start of the new season until June after the Bahrain and Vietnam Grands Prix were postponed.

The sport's traditional Australian Grand Prix curtain raiser at Melbourne's Albert Park, due to take place this weekend, was officially axed on Friday following McLaren's withdrawal from the event after one of their mechanics tested positive for coronavirus.

Next weekend's behind-closed-doors race in Bahrain, and the inaugural round in Vietnam's capital Hanoi, which had been pencilled in for April 5, have since been called off.

It is understood that the view of the sport's travelling circus is to delay the campaign until the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, pencilled in for June 7, at the earliest.

With Agencies