And just like that, the final virtual race of 2021 is over. After avoiding the carnage at the start, George Russell showed there were no doubts about how impressive he is. Enzo Fittipaldi fought through to take a well-deserved P2, while George’s comedy partner Alex Albon taking the final podium spot. A disappointing race from Nic Hamilton and Arthur Leclerc left them with too much to do, despite valiant fights from both.
After a reasonably uneventful qualifying, the ‘professional’ drivers were scattered all over the grid. Alpine’s Nicolas Longuet stayed in the lead, putting comedian Tsamere on pole, followed by Leclerc and Beganovic for FDA. Keifer gave Albon a reasonable P5 start, while the Haas’ Fittipaldi brothers started in P10 (Enzo) and P17 (Pietro). Carreton had a poor sprint race leaving Russell in P14 with a lot to do in the feature race. This ultimately quickly became irrelevant with Leclerc spinning on Lap 1. This led to complete chaos behind him, giving Russell the chance to win that nobody could have predicted.
Almost every driver on the track was caught up in the early mistake from the FDA driver. The new top 3 of Beganovic, Tsamere and Russell fought for the lead, which the British driver did (with ease). Despite being on a harder strategy, he controlled the race from then on. This left Enzo Fittipaldi, Albon and a determined Beganovic fighting for the final podium places. While Albon received a 3-second penalty, his pace throughout the race meant no driver could take P3 away from him. Ultimately, no driver was anywhere near the class of Russell during the final race of the virtual calendar. After this performance, the Brit has se himself up well for the start of the calendar.
Winners and Losers in Brazil
Battle of the Brits:
George Russell is once again the biggest winner, showing his class and skill as driver both on track and online. Taking the fastest lap so comprehensively on the medium tyre is impressive and the young Williams driver should be proud. He concerned everyone by stating that his strategy was completely wrong for the scenario (Lewis, is that you?). He was clearly overly concerned given he had the race controlled and secured within the first few laps in reality. Even if this left us without a particularly exciting race, George winning another race is something nobody will complain about.
There were very few noticeable losers, with most drivers spinning or getting a penalty during the race in São Paulo. Nic Hamilton was off the pace, despite the hosts mentioning before the race to be one of the possible favourites. Finishing the race with a massive 15 seconds worth of penalties left him close to the bottom of the grid. This is probably unsurprising given how the other competitors improved in the first two races, which Nic didn’t compete in. By the end of the series, we had seen so many impressive performances, including some from very surprising competitors. It is really sad to think we have finished another set of exciting races. It does however mean we are finally preparing for 2021 to start in reality.
Impressive amateurs and underwhelming pros:
Jake Dixon also deserves a special mention. His fight with the professional drivers was inspiring, only giving up when he spun and catching up was impossible. The motorbike rider finished in an impressive P7 with no penalties, really making his mark on the competition for Mercedes. The thrill of watching such a wide variety of people competing in these virtual races will never go away. This is especially true after seeing how quickly these drivers are catching up in ability to their professional teammates. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is an obvious example, given he only had an hour between Real Madrid winning and the race. He performed exceptionally well to finish in P11. Bringing F1 to a wider audience with the varied grid, especially without the pay wall, is wonderful to see.
Tonio Liuzzi is the one competitor who seemed consistently underwhelming in all 3 races in the calendar. Despite his impressive career in F1, the driver simply couldn’t keep up on the virtual track. After being disqualified from the Austrian Grand Prix, the driver did little to improve his reputation in the virtual races. He lost out to both professional and non-professional drivers and will have a lot of work to do if he wants to improve his standing in future virtual races. This shows how impressive these young driving talents are, with driving skill not being enough to challenge at the front of the grid.
Promising new talents:
One of these talents is Enzo Fittipaldi, who also cannot go unnoticed as a winner. He showcased his clear talent that has been highlighted during these races. The teenager impressed everybody staying calm and composed to come through to a P1, P5, then P3 finish. Fittipaldi is the unofficial drivers champion following the three virtual races, gaining the most points overall. Enzo and his brother Pietro also won the team championships, meaning £20,000 will go to the Grand Prix Trust. This is the ultimate success of the entire virtual calendar. Every team has been able to give money to a deserving cause, helping people around the world.
After such an exciting series of races, the excitement for the season to start is stronger than ever. With car launches imminent and eyes returning to the Formula 1 world, everyone is preparing for a busy year. Which teams and drivers are you most excited to see? Let me know in the comments or on any of the other social media platforms.