There were technical glitches, the race was trimmed to 25% distance (14 laps) and the action wasn’t pretty at times, but Formula 1 did manage to carry out its first virtual race at the Bahrain GP with Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu emerging victorious.
In field featuring a mix of actual drivers from different motorsport disciplines, Esports drivers, a former Olympian and even a professional golfer, the variance in skill levels was always going to make racing unpredictable.
Zhou, a product of the Renault Sport Academy, Formula 2 competitor and test driver for the Renault F1 team, qualified third behind Phillip Eng (of German DTM fame) and Esteban Gutierrez (Formula E) and drove a clean race to finish well ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne (ex-F1 and now Formula E) and Eng.
Zhou credited his win to an early pitstop (to mediums) and also the fact that he’s familiar with the game which keeps him sharp when not behind the wheel of an actual race car.
Other notable finishers include Lando Norris who missed qualifying due to a server fault but fought through the field to take fifth, Williams new boy Nicholas Latifi in sixth and just-retired Nico Hulkenberg took his Force India to 10th place. The next race is the Vietnamese GP, scheduled in two weeks’ time.