George Russell has claimed a thrilling virtual Spanish Grand Prix victory at the death as Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc was slapped with a time penalty for abusing track limits on the penultimate lap.
Russell becomes the third different F1 driver to have resided the top step of the virtual podium, after Red Bull’s Alex Albon put an end to Leclerc’s winning streak last weekend.
In wasn’t easy for Russell however, as he dropped to fifth at turn one having qualified on pole. Leclerc then charged into the lead on his second tour, overtaking Esteban Gutierrez around the outside of Turn 1.
As the opening stint wore on Russell overtook Williams stablemate Nicholas Latifi and Gutierrez in quick succession and was promoted to second when Albon opted for an early pitstop as a part of his bizarre two-stop strategy.
As the leaders made their mandatory stops it was Russell who had the edge over Leclerc on fresh rubber, eating into the Ferrari’s advantage. But a costly mistake meant he picked up a three-second time penalty for corner-cutting.
Nonetheless, Russell closed in on Leclerc and made his move with six laps to go down the DRS-assisted front straight.
The 22-year-old then set about trying to build a three-second margin over Leclerc to nullify the effect of his penalty but struggled as the Ferrari kept in touching distance onto the penultimate lap.
But with a likely third Virtual Grand Prix victory awaiting him, Leclerc then picked up his own three-second penalty for extending track limits at turn 15.
The penalty ultimately neutralised the gap at the front and Russell was able to cruise home in first place 2.5s ahead of Leclerc.
Gutierrez rounded off the podium as Albon could only make his two-stop strategy yield a disappointing fourth place.
Latifi claimed fifth while an ecstatic Anthony Davidson finished in sixth place, 1.4s ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.
Lando Norris’ Supercars Eseries antics of driving backwards to get to the pitlane copped himself a five-place grid penalty as he attempted to wrestle his McLaren back to the pitlane after a spin at the final corner during qualifying.
In the race itself he was involved in an opening lap accident before picking up penalty for speeding in the pitlane before eventually retiring for good.
Meanwhile, Renault junior Guanyu Zhou and ex-F2 driver Norman Nato shared wins in the evening’s Virtual F2 event.
|1||George Russell||33 laps|
|19||Arthur Melo||+1 Lap|