Renault test driver Guanyu Zhou wins first F1 Virtual Grand Prix

Guanyu Zhou won Formula One’s first official Virtual Grand Prix as the Renault test driver took the chequered flag in Bahrain.

With the start of the F1 season decimated by the coronavirus outbreak, the sport took the decision to entertain fans with a stream of online races taking place on the date and time that the corresponding grands prix would have been held.

Racers past and present were joined by eSports stars and celebrities for the event but it was the current crop of drivers who came out on top.

Zhou beat Mercedes Formula E driver Stoffel Vandoorne and sports car racer Phillip Eng – who had qualified on pole position for Red Bull in the 18-minute session earlier in the evening – into second and third place.

The quarter-distance race, run of 14 laps, began with plenty of crashes and incidents going into the first corner, although racers were being allowed to rejoin the action rather than drop out and retire.

There was less success for the non-racing fraternity as Ryder Cup-winning golfer Ian Poulter could only finish 15th for Renault, with Olympic cycling gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy a place further back.

Former One Director member Liam Payne finished a lowly 17th.
Former One Director member Liam Payne finished a lowly 17th.

It was a night to forget for pop star Liam Payne who came home last of those to finish, his Williams the only car lapped over the course of the race.

The next scheduled race on the 2020 F1 calendar would have been the debut running of the Vietnam Grand Prix on April 5. However, with the virtual races taking place on the official F1 2019 video game – which does not have the Hanoi Street Circuit – Vietnam will be replaced by an alternative Virtual Grand Prix venue.