The weekend of July 20th and 21st may not have been a Formula 1 Grand Prix race weekend but two current Formula 1 drivers were very much in the thick of a battle set on the asphalt of Spa, lasting 24 hours in…a virtual world but real world drama at the end.
It is no secret that Max Verstappen and Lando Norris are keen gamers and love racing in all forms. This past weekend, the opportunity came to avenge the failure they encountered during the 12 hours of Bathurst back in February. During this virtual encounter, fans never even got the chance to see what Verstappen and Norris were capable of due to the fact their team-mate crashed early in the race and in these virtual battles there is no reset button!
So, the stage was set for Max Verstappen, Max Benecke, Max Wenig…and Lando Norris to present their gaming skills on a grand stage once again. As one Twitter user wrote ‘Max Norris must have not been available’ in response to the presence of so many Maxes.
The battle was streamed in many ways and on Lando Norris’ twitch TV channel, 16,500 viewers observed the battle for victory.
The car of choice for the online venture was an Audi R8 LMS GT3 and as a combined force of Team PRT Redline. Due to the fact that Max (x3) and Lando had already claimed pole position they were favourites and went on to dominate the majority of the race.
Incredibly, with Verstappen at the wheel, a three-minute lead and jokes of doing donuts before the finish line, the realism of the encounter was further shown when the race leader announced on (uncensored) team radio:
‘Oh no, I think my brake failed a bit Holy *&*&’
Lando Norris was shown in the bottom left hand corner (this was his twitch TV channel after all) laughing in disbelief at the sight of the wayward brakeless Verstappen no longer racing on asphalt but cruising over grass as the brakes on his simulator rig had indeed failed. Team radio said that they ‘would now lose it’ and this understandably brought on more expletives.
Max Verstappen, is well aware of car issues in the real world of racing and now here he was plagued by them in the virtual world to the shock of all watching including Norris who announced in disbelief: ‘the brake pedal fell off?!’.
What followed was a conversation of on the spot calculations and the conclusion that they should be ok due to their three-minute lead. Norris meanwhile had reality strike him:
‘Fudge man, I thought you were joking Max, I thought it was all a joke…you could have crashed so many times’
This was very true and the skill shown by Verstappen maneuvering through gravel traps and grass in his off track exploits showed true racing craft and should not have been possible – weaving, downshifting and swerving to bring his car to a stop to allow driver change. However, his teammates criticized the millionaire’s choice of pedals and told him to buy better gear.
Despite losing a lap and Lando Norris shaking having been ‘put back in the car’ then later laughing during the final 4 laps (although being told ‘to focus’ and ‘not bin it’) the victory was claimed a short time later with a lead of 27.285s – well, I did say they dominated the race!
As Lando Norris claimed the victory, his teammates were jubilant, relieved and mentally exhausted (by their own admission) whilst Norris did on track donuts after all and then the all too familiar Norris laugh returned with flashbacks of the brake pedal incident’ and imitations of other F1 drivers with comments of ‘P1 Sebastian’ and ‘Get in there Lewis’.
Lando Norris had previously said:
“A lot of things we do on the simulator correlate to real life.”
Such comments validate gamers devoting hours to the virtual world and shows them a glimpse of what it is like to race an F1 car. Just ask Max Verstappen because: ’10 minutes to go and the *&^*%$& brake pedal falls off’.
This was incredibly entertaining and further shows the future for Esports is very big indeed…just buy the right gear.