England international cricketer Ben Stokes will join five current F1 drivers, including Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, in competing in this weekend's F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix.
After the first eight races of the Formula One season were either postponed or cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the sport decided to set up esports races in lieu of the actual grands prix. The series aims to get as many current F1 drivers to complete as possible and then plans to fill the rest of the virtual grid with sportspeople, celebrities and YouTube stars.
This weekend's race, in lieu of the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix, will see Stokes race alongside Leclerc, Red Bull's Alex Albon, Williams' George Russell, McLaren's Lando Norris and WIlliams' Nicholas Latifi. Former F1 driver Johnny Herbert will return for a second attempt at esports racing after finishing 13th in the Bahrain two weeks ago. F1 said more names are due to be confirmed in the coming days.
Because the Vietnam circuit is not available on the current version of the official F1 video game, the race will take place on the Albert Park circuit which should have hosted the season-opener in Australia. F1 only started the esports initiative over the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend two weeks ago, so it has yet to hold a virtual race on the Albert Park circuit.
The race will take place on Sunday April 5 and get underway at 8:00pm (BST), with a qualifying session and 28-lap race broadcast on YouTube, Facebook and Twitch.
"Following the massive success of the F1 Esports Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix, we are thrilled to be able to come back online again this weekend to provide fans with some racing action," Julian Tan, F1's head of esports said. "A star-studded grid is shaping up with our F1 stars - past, present and future - as well as huge names in sports and entertainment.
"We look forward to providing some light relief through esports as we all navigate through these difficult times together, where our fans can engage with our sport in a different but familiar way."
The first F1 virtual grand prix was watched by over 350,000 people across all streams and saw Lando Norris' personal Twitch feed set a new record of 100,000 concurrent viewers despite his connection dropping out ahead of the start of the race. Of the current F1 grid, only Norris and Latifi competed in the Bahrain round, so Leclerc, Albon and Russell will all be new to the online racing this weekend.