George Russell: Lockdown gaming has rekindled karting friendships

Russell: Virtual racing has bought us together again (1:34)

Williams driver George Russell says the absence of F1 has reignited friendships with Alex Albon and Charles Leclerc. (1:34)

Williams driver George Russell says one plus side of virtual racing over physical racing is getting to spend more time socialising online with old friends and current Formula One rivals Alex Albon and Charles Leclerc.

The three drivers have become the stars of recent online races -- they have claimed all the wins in the official F1 Virtual Racing Series set up in place of postponed or cancelled F1 events -- but have spent countless hours racing each other in more relaxed environments online, including lawnmower racing.

In the latest ESPN F1 podcast, Russell said the change of pace has allowed the drivers to spend more time chatting in a relaxed environment away from the pressures of real racing.

"That side of it has been great," he said in a podcast recorded at the start of May. "We have always been mates, but when you find yourselves as competitors at the track, you're fully focused on your job, and we are also so busy at race weekends that you don't really get to see each other.

"Only me and Alex would go out for dinner here and there during race weekends, but even then it doesn't happen that often because we are so focused. So this does bring us back to the old days when we were karting, and I remember when we used to finish, we wouldn't have to debrief with our team or anything; we would run off with our mates' awning and play some games on the iPhone and mess around or play with cardboard boxes or something.

"It's definitely a part of motorsport I miss, because in karting, as serious as it does get, there is still an element of more socialising, and this has brought us back to these memories we had when we were younger."

To listen to more stories from Russell's karting days, including a practical joke involving hair-removal cream, listen to the podcast here.