With the Monaco Grand Prix this year now officially cancelled, marking the first time since 1954 that Formula 1 will not visit the Principality but, despite this, the organisers ensured a race would still take place on the simulated version of Monte Carlo, with the next edition of the Virtual Grand Prix series staged around those iconic streets.
Representing BWT Racing Point F1 Esports Team at the jewel in the crown of the racing calendar were global music superstar Luis Fonsi – the Puerto Rican making his F1 Esports debut alongside rising FIA Formula 3 star David Schumacher.
Qualifying took place in the rain, throwing a significant challenge into the mix for even the more experienced drivers – let alone the rest of the pack! David’s first runs on the wet tyres was good enough for a place within the top 10 – but he wasn’t finished yet.
With minutes left of Qualifying, the young German hit the top of the timing sheets with a 1:23.058. And while his time would eventually be beaten by Haas junior driver Pietro Fittipaldi and Williams driver George Russell, it was a solid effort to claim P3 on the grid.
Luis, meanwhile, was finding the limits around the narrow Monaco streets and ended the session in P19 for his Esports debut.
Despite dry conditions for the race, the tight, twisting Monte Carlo circuit awaiting the 20 drivers on the grid was nonetheless expected to cause carnage. Sure enough, incidents littered the race track immediately on the run towards Sainte Devote, the opening corner.
David and Luis both managed to escape the drama, with the latter climbing to P16 on the opening lap ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. Meanwhile, at the front, David was squabbling with the Leclerc brothers for a spot in the podium positions.
When elder brother Charles eventually slid his way past the young German for P3, David became embroiled in a battle with the Mercedes of Esteban Gutierrez and Red Bull of Alex Albon.
Gutierrez soon made his way past at the Nouvelle Chicane – but an error immediately allowed both David and Albon to pounce, the latter making contact with Gutierrez and sending him spinning directly into David’s path at Tabac. Fortunately, the German showed quick reactions to take evasive action.
David continued his progress at the front as multiple drivers made their scheduled pit stop, until slight contact with the barrier forced him into a spin. While he was able to recover, his tyres were destroyed – forcing him to make his scheduled stop early and returning to the track in P11.
Further down the pack, Luis was progressively getting to grips with competitive sim racing, improving on every lap around the challenging street circuit – not the easiest of venues for an F1 Esports debut, to say the least!
In the hunt for his first points finish in the Virtual Grand Prix Series, David found himself up against the recovering Bottas. And when an error sent the young German spinning once more, it looked to be over.
Pushing hard in the final laps, David began to eat away at the gap to his Finnish sparring partner and, as the chequered flag waved miraculously found himself promoted to P10 as Bottas bizarrely returned to the pits, handing the German his first F1 Esports point.
Luis, meanwhile, wrapped up his first F1 Esports race in P18 – a valiant effort on his debut around arguably the most challenging course on the calendar.
Earlier, the F1 Esports Pro drivers were back in action on Sunday for another round of the Pro Exhibition series, this time set against the iconic Monte-Carlo backdrop.
Following on from an impressive double-points finish at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, BWT Racing Point F1 Esports Team drivers Lucas Blakeley and Daniele Haddad were hoping to continue their strong form – but with the menacing streets of Monaco awaiting them, anything could happen.
With qualifying being vital here, the Pros instantly got to work – setting blistering times around the narrow street circuit and showing promising pace early on to sit comfortably within the top 10.
In the final moments of the session, both drivers ventured out for one more lap to find any last improvements – and they did just that, with Lucas ending qualifying in P4 and Daniele P6.
With overtaking notoriously limited around the tight Monte Carlo streets, track position is key. Lucas and Daniele both rose to the challenge, making up one place apiece after the opening corners and keeping tabs on David Tonizza, Brendon Leigh and Daniel Bereznay ahead.
At the end of Lap 1, Lucas made the early call for a pit stop, becoming the first of the 20 drivers to stop. Others shadowed his strategy – but it was the Scot who got in and out first, handing him track advantage.
Daniele would follow suit one lap later, coming out behind his team-mate but in contention with the other front-runners who had pitted on Lap 1.
On fresh tyres, Lucas was on a charge and managed to jump Leigh for P6 on track. With Tonizza and numerous others still left to pit and clear track ahead of him, the Scot sat in a strong position to under cutthe Italian and began to decrease the gap to the cars ahead.
When Tonizza made his stop on Lap 3, Lucas jumped the Ferrari driver to take the effective race lead. While the tough nature of overtaking around Monaco proved to be on Lucas’ side, the reigning F1 Esports Champion was looking for every opportunity possible to pass the Scotsman.
When Michael Romanidis, Bono Huis and Alvaro Carreton eventually made their stops, Lucas finally found himself in the overall lead of the race – but was still facing a fierce fight with the Ferrari driver behind if he wanted to take his win.
Not far behind, damage to Red Bull’s Frederik Rasmussen promoted Daniele up to P5, putting both Racing Point cars into the top five places. The Italian kept his nose clean throughout and maintained that position to the flag – his best finish in the Pro Exhibition Series.
As the laps ticked down, Lucas continued to stand his ground against Tonizza as the Italian fought to find his way past. But the Scotsman defended with all his might and, on the final lap, had managed to edge a slender half-second advantage over the Ferrari man.
The chequered flag waved and it was Lucas who was first to take it, clinching his first-ever F1 Esports win and the team’s first victory of 2020 – a brilliant strategy call and excellent defensive driving against the reigning Champion handing him a memorable result at the jewel in the crown of F1 events.
With Daniele delivering another strong result in P5, Racing Point finished as the highest-scoring team around the Principality with a total of 35 points – the team’s best result in the Pro Exhibition series.
BWT Racing Point F1 Esports Team will be back in action for the next Virtual Grand Prix on 7 June, taking place at the Baku City Circuit.
The official 2919 F1 Game is used for these competitions.
𝘼 𝙈𝙀𝙎𝙎𝘼𝙂𝙀 𝙁𝙍𝙊𝙈 𝙔𝙊𝙐𝙍 𝙒𝙄𝙉𝙉𝙀𝙍 🏆@LucasBlakeley01 delivers a quick message after winning the Monaco Pro Exhibition Race, his first F1 Esports win! 👏🤩 #RaceAtHome #VirtualGP #F1Esports #F1 pic.twitter.com/M9UfQ77UNf
— BWT Racing Point F1 Esports Team (@eRacingPointF1) May 24, 2020