Solberg joins Virtual GP field as Norris, Sainz drop out

Luke Smith

F1 will stage its latest Virtual Grand Prix event this weekend in place of the Dutch Grand Prix, which was due to be held at Zandvoort on Sunday 3 May.

With Zandvoort absent from the F1 2019 video game, fans were invited to vote for which track would be used on social media, with Interlagos, the annual host of the Brazilian Grand Prix, gaining more than half of the 40,000 votes.

F1 confirmed on Thursday that Red Bull's Alexander Albon, Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi, Williams teammates Nicholas Latifi and George Russell, and Ferrari race winner Charles Leclerc will all feature in this weekend's Virtual Grand Prix.

It marks a small drop in the real-world grid's participation in the events, with McLaren drivers Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz  both absent from the initial entry list.

An array of names from both in and out of motorsport will also join the field, including 2003 WRC champion Solberg, who will race for Renault alongside Formula 2 driver Christian Lundgaard.

"We are all changing the way we do things while the world is like it is and I'm really looking forward to driving with Christian," said Solberg.

"His father Henrik and I competed against each other when we were younger, so I'm happy my teammate is coming from a good rallying family. Like everything I will give this 110% and do my best. When we do something, we do it with just one aim: to win."

Stars from outside motorsport will also join the Virtual Grand Prix grid once again, including England cricketers Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes, as well as AC Milan football club captain Alessio Romagnoli. The full grid is set to be confirmed later this week.

The drivers will take part in a short qualifying session followed by a 28-lap race at Interlagos, starting at 5pm BST on Sunday.

F1 has reported that more than 16 million people are estimated to have tuned in to the three Virtual Grand Prix races held so far.

"We are delighted that so many fans are watching and engaging with the F1 Esports Virtual Grands Prix. The viewership continues to go from strength to strength, outlining the growing success of the races and the wider potential of Formula 1 in Esports," said F1's head of Esports Julian Tan.

"Furthermore, we are thrilled to welcome more stars from outside the world of F1, to complement our strong F1 and motorsport driver grid, and use this opportunity to link up with other sports as we all stand together to give fans something to cheer about during these difficult times."

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