The off season in Formula 1 is giving sim racing its time in the sun. Whilst the Virtual Grand Prixs do not bring the same level of excitement that an ordinary F1 race weekend would, there is no doubt the popularity of virtual and sim racing is having it’s stock raised in the present climate. And some are riding that wave better than others.
Whilst some drivers have strayed away from getting involved in virtual racing, there is a crop of young F1 drivers taking the internet by storm entertaining the fans and promoting F1 through a series of online race events.
To date Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris, George Russell, Nicholas Latifi, Alex Albon, Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles Leclerc from the current grid have all raced in Codemasters F1 2019 game unde the #VirtualGrandPrix amongst other sims and alongside many others from the world of motorsport and beyond.
There is no doubt that the involvement in such events is not only increasing the standing of these drivers amongst the fans but also keeping the F1 media machine spinning providing endless content for social media teams and even in some cases keeping sponsors happy in a season where their investments must feel more precarious than ever.
And there’s one driver who seems to be taking all the headlines right now, and that’s back to back winner of the last two Virtual GP’s: Charles Leclerc. Unlike his current teammate, Charles is living in a world of blissful security when it comes to his Formula One future, the Monegasque securely in the red car til the end of the 2024 season.
And that security seems to be enabling the young driver to flourish in a world where there are no race results to worry about. Charles has taken to the online world of streaming, gaming and entertaining like a duck to water. Admittedly putting in the preparation with the Ferrari Sim Racing team. But with a few comical moments during his live streams coupled with instant success on the virtual track, Charles is quickly becoming the Twitter mob’s favourite and his clout seems to know no bounds.
Whilst others feel that the sim seasons and virtual racing will have no relevance once we get racing, I tend to disagree when you look at the business side of the sport. Already driving for the most popular team on the grid there is perhaps little Chalres needs to do outside of performing on Sundays to develop himself into the number one driver. But for me, not only the brand of Ferrari but the brand that is Charles Leclerc has been snowballing into something of almost cataclysmic proportion and strangely it is sim racing that is pushing him forward… who thought we’d be saying that at the start of the year.
For me he is not only showcasing that he has a fun side and can race at an exceptional level from karts to F1 to sims, but is also perhaps just inadvertently helping to position himself as a must have name on the Formula One grid for many years to come, and even as a team leader in one of the goliaths of the sport.
His popularity is becoming almost unrivalled and he has a true core of die hard fans you feel would follow him anywhere, something for Ferrari to keep in mind… even if they don’t have to worry about it until 2025.