Leclerc makes it two in a row and wins Chinese Virtual Grand Prix

E-sports

Charles Leclerc made it back-to-back wins in the F1 Virtual Grand Prix series with a win in China

Chinese Virtual Grand Prix

Formula 1’s Virtual Grand Prix series has been fairly chaotic for the most part, but race four was a much cleaner, closely-fought affair, as Charles Leclerc put a spectacular move on Alex Albon to win the Virtual Chinese Grand Prix.

After taking pole, the Ferrari driver leapt into an early lead as his rivals behind squabbled for position.

Winner of race one in the series, Guanyu Zhou, made the best start of the top runners, able to force his way past Stoffel Vandoorne for third place, igniting their battle that would last the entirety of the race.

YouTuber and sim racer Jimmy Broadbent surged up the order from 17th on the grid, climbing to a spectacular ninth place by the end of the first lap in the Racing Point.

Having slipped down the order from fifth on the grid to eighth and unable to make much progress, George Russell was the first to pit, setting off a chain reaction of early stops by those around him.

Albon opted to pit first from the lead pair, attempting an undercut on race leader Leclerc, whose lead had begun to shrink to under a second to the Red Bull driver.

The half-distance race was a comfortable one-stopper, but neither the undercut nor the overcut offered a definitive advantage.

The Ferrari man was in on lap six with an immediate response, but the one-lap delay cost him the lead and Albon wasn’t the only driver to benefit from a proactive strategy call.

A few seconds further back in the fight for third, Vandoorne made good effect of the undercut also, sneaking his Mercedes into third and back past the Renault of Zhou, who had stayed out one lap longer.

Albon and Leclerc wouldn’t be caught but the leading pair were inseparable on the track as they carved their way through yet-to-pit traffic, Albon keeping the Ferrari at arm’s length for several laps after the stops.

Leclerc was on the tail of the race leader soon enough however, and made the move to take the lead on lap 11 with an audacious move.

Flying into turn one side-by-side with DRS assistance, Leclerc was forced half onto the grass approaching the sweeping right hander, but forced the Red Bull wide to steal the lead.

Related article

Behind the top two, Russell’s fightback continued as he made quick work of Louis Deletraz on lap 15 for sixth, and set about chasing down Esteban Gutierrez immediately. The Williams driver was on the back of the Mercedes one lap later.

Zhou was able to steal back third from Vandoorne with a ruthless move into the hairpin and held on with a thorough defence into Turn One. Running side-by-side with the Mercedes, he forced Vandoorne the long way round before assuming the racing line into Two.

Their battle wasn’t over though, and Vandoorne made a DRS repass on Zhou a lap later into the final hairpin.

After taking the lead back from Albon, Leclerc was out of reach for the remaining laps and had stretched his lead to over three seconds by the time the chequered flag fell.

Albon followed home in second while the dramatic fight for third had one final twist, as Vandoorne was hit with a 5-second time penalty post-race, elevating Zhou onto the podium at his home race and Russell slipped into fourth.