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F1's Virtual Grand Prix Series Starts Surprisingly Well

Formula 1's first-ever official virtual race, the Bahrain Virtual Grand Prix, was much better than we expected, even if not as good as we hoped.
Zhou wins it 5 photos
Looks like a proper F1 broadcastNorris battling Broadbent for 4thGutierrez battling Hulkenberg in midfieldJohnny Herbert finishes 13th
First of all, the lineup. While it was disappointing not to see more F1 drivers involved, we still got to see many more professional racing drivers involved. Formula 1 being Formula 1, they were able to involve people we haven't seen in the other recent virtual events.

SportsCar Championship driver Philipp Eng, Ferrari Driver Academy members Robert Shwartzman and Dino Beganovic, British Touring Car Championship driver Nicholas Hamilton (brother of F1's Lewis), Renault F1 test driver Guanyu Zhou and last but definitely not least, the only one on the grid to actually win a real F1 GP, Johnny Herbert!

Other participants include Williams driver Nicholas Latifi and ex-Renault driver Niko Hulkenberg - both of whom we also watched in the earlier Not the... Bah GP by Veloce Esports, Olympic gold medalist Chris Hoy, golfer Ian Poulter, singer Liam Payne, alongside other stars and the 'usual suspects' Lando Norris, Stoffel Vandoorne, and Esteban Gutierrez.

Secondly, the production looked more professional than the other virtual races we've seen lately. It felt pretty much like the real thing, with comments and analysis from a real studio, a pre-race call with Hulkenberg, a post-race call with winner Zhou and just an overall more polished product. Sure, there was the negative of the race being cut down to 14 laps instead of the scheduled 28 due to technical issues for Norris and Jimmy Broadbent. But these things happen when you have online games with everybody playing from different locations.

The racing part wasn't bad. We had fights for 2nd and 4th places down to the last few turns, and we got to see Johnny Herbert 'racing' again. He finished 13th, but that's not too bad considering he's from a different generation than the likes of Norris and the others. Plus, he's probably never been in a sim race before this Bahrain Virtual Grand Prix.

After leading the entire second half of the race, Zhou ended up winning comfortably in front of Vandoorne, while pole-sitter and early race leader Eng was probably disappointed to finish 3rd. Norris came in 5th, after contact with Broadbent in the last corner of the race.


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