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.