Virtual Formula E test race at Monaco proves true to life

Formula E tested a new esports ‘Race at Home Challenge’ series on Saturday with the virtual Monaco layout proving true to life as BMW iAndretti driver Maximilian Guenther won untroubled from pole position.

The regular Formula E drivers had their own race, with gamers and others competing separately in another, on simulators from their homes.

Andre Lotterer’s dog made a brief appearance in the background when the camera turned to Porsche’s third-place finisher.

Mercedes driver Stoffel Vandoorne finished as runner-up, seven-tenths behind, on a street circuit where overtaking is always tricky in real life.

The start was also typically chaotic and the race littered with the sort of pile-ups that would have brought out red flags in the real world, rather than a digital reset without the involvement of marshals.

Under the ‘race royale’ format, the last placed driver after each lap was eliminated until only 10 remained for a final sprint to the line.

Saturday’s race was non-points scoring for the virtual series with the emphasis on familiarisation for drivers joining the fray from as far afield as Felipe Massa in Brazil.

Formula E is following other championships, such as Formula One and MotoGP, in using virtual racing to fill the void left by the COVID-19 pandemic which has brought motorsport to a standstill.

The all-electric series’ version, run over nine consecutive weekends, is also raising funds for the U.N. children’s fund UNICEF’s global coronavirus appeal.

The gamers race was won by Graham Carroll for the Envision Virgin team.

The ultimate prize at stake for those competing in that category is real-life track time in a Formula E car when real-life racing resumes.

Those competing included transgender sportscar driver Charlie Martin.