F1 2021 Virtual British GP: Russell keeps nose clean to hold off Albon and Ilott
One week after a frenetic start to F1’s Virtual GP Series in a polygonal Austria came a race certainly closer to the definition of ‘within the rules’ but lacking none of the action as a result.
The qualifying sprint race was a 5-lap pressure cooker for Kiefer and Leigh at the front, the latter upping the ante on the Red Bull driver before a daring move for the lead from through Brooklands that eventually sealed pole for Callum Ilott.
Kiefer held onto the second place that would give Albon a fair chance at victory should the feature race go his way.
Feature Race Report
It was all action at the start as Ilott took off to build an early lead while Alex Albon and Thibaut Courtois battled for second behind. The goalkeeper clearly didn’t want to just keep his goal, he had a new one of Albon’s second place, putting a daring move on the Thai driver outside Maggotts. The Red Bull had the right track position however, and the Alfa had to slot back in behind.
Courtois seemed unwilling to settle for 3rd, putting another move on into Village, slipping past Albon and into 2nd. Out of position and with less momentum than his fellow streamer, Albon opened himself up to a pass through Aintree by Russell as Ilott used the squabbling to build an early lead of 2.5s. The King’s Lynne prodigy would lead the Thai past Courtois a lap later and after the flying Ferrari.
Ben Daly (Tiametmarduk) started in the middle of the pack in 8th before going sideways at Abbey, a slide which would forebode the rest of his race. He made a recovery up to P7, then P6 as a Courtois caught outfield seemed to be tracking back finishing lap 6 down in P9.
Contact seemed to find its way to Daly, as the Youtuber was bumped and bashed around, first by Shwartzman at Luffield, then Lawson through Village, though his fete seemed to be back behind, as only a spin for Tiametmarduk a tour or two later took him out of the points.
As trouble kicked off behind, Ilott’s softs had had enough, as he came into the pits for the mediums. Albon claimed the lead behind as a result, dispatching Russell at Stowe with some tactical ERS use. It held steady at the front for at least two laps, before the Red Bull had its wings clipped by a track limits abuse and an immediate pit for softs.
Advantage Russell, with a clean record he covered the undercut a lap later. Ilott had reclaimed the lead thanks to some small undercut effect, but was clearly under pressure as the soft-clad runners were a cut above even his skills.
Jimmy Broadbent meanwhile was having a race typical of his iRacing career, running in P14 from a promising start, unable to make places. Also unable to make places was the first woman to race in a Virtual GP feature race, Thea Musante. It seemed to be trial by fire in her first race at this level, ending the race in an unfortunate 15th a lap down. Hopefully next time out, her skills will be honed at Interlagos.
Medium tyres fitted, Ilott was unable to build a similar gap to before the pit rotation, as Albon moved within 0.2 seconds with 10 laps to go, set the fastest lap, then cruised round the outside at village 2 laps later. Ilott out of the way unleashed Albon, desperate to build a gap before the inevitable Russell had no cars between them. Russell looked likely to do this not half a lap later, practically being inside his compatriot’s gearbox through the Copse-Maggotts-Becketts complex before completing a pass on the Wellington straight.
New entry Pieface23 held up surprisingly well against those around him with fancier sim rigs, holding them off with some extreme dexterity on a standard controller. Courtois eventually dispatched him like a hard to find console and he pitted for sone new boots to claim fastest lap. Squeezie and Daly were concurrently sizing up Liuzzi and Latifi respectively, though no position changes came of the pressure.
One place this wasn’t true was out front, as a racy Russell forced Albon to move around on the straights in an attempt to break the tow with 5 laps to go. Ilott then became one of many to pick up a penalty as almost all those behind had, ending his chances of picking up a win from the two in front.
A Russell potentially running on fumes then passed Albon down the hangar straight. Albon then produced a late charge to take fastest lap, then a last lap on-track overtake for the win on the road. He would immediately come to rue his liberties with the white lines, the clock telling the real story as the checkered flag fell. Russell took the win, followed by Albon with Ilott on the bottom step in third.
|2||Alex Albon||Red Bull||19|
|6||Liam Lawson||Red Bull||8|
|9||Ben ‘Tiametmarduk’ Daly||McLaren||2|
|10||Luca Salvadori||Alpha Tauri||1|
|11||Thibaut Courtois||Alfa Romeo||0|
|13||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Alpha Tauri||0|
|14||Jack ‘Pie Face’ McDermott||Alfa Romeo||0|