Charles Leclerc says his participation in sim racing during lockdown is renewing his friendships with the likes of Alexander Albon and George Russell.
The trio have taken part in the last three Virtual Grand Prix races hosted by Formula 1, as well as a number of their own online events during which they’ve driving everything from haulers to lawnmowers. After finishing third to Albon and Russell in the latest F1 event on Sunday, Leclerc said the situation has rekindled a friendship between them that has its roots in when they competed against each other in karts.
“(Sim racing) is not the same thing as reality for sure, and it will never be exactly the same thing as reality, but for now in a situation like this it is the closest we can get,” Leclerc said. “We are all having fun.
“I think this situation also made George, myself and Alex… we probably lost a little bit of contact in terms of speaking to each other over the years with the different categories we were doing, and now in a situation like that it’s great to find each other again and to have fun all together racing and doing what we like, so it’s great.”
After a race-long battle with Albon for the win in the VirtualGP at Interlagos, Leclerc says the racing genuinely got his adrenaline pumping. The contest was likened to his real-world scrap with Max Verstappen in Austria last year.
“There was less contact and even more overtaking than Austria – it was proper fun!” he said I knew I had the penalty but it was all about having fun. I kept overtaking Alex, I didn’t want him to go, even knowing that George would come back and it would probably cost me the second place. But I really enjoyed this race, it was proper. I had a great time.”
The three drivers have also been involved in setting up wider sim racing events to help raise money for the fight against COVID-19, and have attracted tens of thousands of dollars through streamed races.