Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon will make their debuts in the Virtual Grand Prix series as part of eight current drivers in Formula 1’s official Esports event at Monaco, which airs live on ESPN2 Sunday at 1:00pm ET.
Mercedes has been running affiliated drivers Stoffel Vandoorne, Esteban Gutierrez and Anthony Davidson in the F1 events so far but Sunday will see Bottas make his first appearance after receiving a simulator at the start of the month. The Finn will partner Gutierrez for Mercedes around Monte Carlo.
Similarly, Renault has yet to field one of its race drivers in any of the previous Virtual GPs, with the team opting to use the likes of academy drivers Christian Lundgaard and Guanyu Zhou as well as golfer Ian Poulter. However, with this week’s online event being held in place of F1’s flagship race, the sport has asked all of the teams to try and provide at least one of its race drivers where possible.
Ocon has been a regular on Gran Turismo online racing during the shutdown but Sunday will be his first official F1 appearance, joining the likes of Charles Leclerc, Alex Albon, Lando Norris, Antonio Giovinazzi, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi. Renault will run an all-French pairing of Ocon and Nico Prost — son of four-time world champion Alain — while Ocon will also be supported by his current race engineer Mark Slade.
Seven of the 10 teams are running at least one race driver, with AlphaTauri, Racing Point and Haas the only teams not to do so. All three are running either former drivers or famous surnames, however, with Tonio Liuzzi in for Alpha Tauri, David Schumacher at Racing Point — teaming up with record-breaking singer/songwriter Luis Fonsi — and reserve pair Louis Deletraz and Pietro Fittipaldi for Haas.
Other confirmed celebrity entries include Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang alongside Norris at McLaren, and surfer Kai Lenny who will partner Albon and has also had guidance from Max Verstappen.
Eight current drivers is a new high for F1’s event, which faces the added challenge of supporting multiple entrants signing in from different countries.