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Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes join F1 drivers for Virtual Grand Prix at Brazil’s Interlagos

Stuart Broad with Ben Stokes during the match
Stuart Broad with Ben Stokes during the match
©REUTERS/Ross Setford

Formula 1 drivers Alex Albon, Antonio Giovinazzi, George Russell, Nicholas Latifi and Charles Leclerc will be joined by stars from cricket and football for this weekend’s virtual race at the Interlagos Circuit.

 England cricketers Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes will take to the grid for this weekend’s Virtual Grand Prix alongside A.C. Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli, where they will battle it out alongside Formula 1 stars in the fourth virtual race of the season, with more names to be announced in the coming days.

Broad, who will be racing for Scuderia AlphaTauri, will be looking to beat his England teammate Stokes, who is racing in his second virtual Grand Prix for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing alongside Alex Albon.

Sunday’s race will fall on the weekend originally scheduled for the 2020 return of the Dutch Grand Prix, however as Circuit Zandvoort is not available on the F1 2019 videogame, the choice of circuit was left to a fan vote on social media. Brazil’s Autódromo José Carlos Pace, also known as Interlagos, emerged as the clear winner, securing more 50% of the 40,000 votes cast. Drivers will join the race remotely, with a host broadcast live from the Gfinity Esports Arena from 6:00pm (BST) on Sunday May 3.

The Virtual Grand Prix Series has proven immensely popular with fans around the world with the Bahraini, Vietnamese and Chinese virtual GPs cumulating over 12.9m views across F1’s digital platforms. When combined with television estimates, more than 16m people have tuned in for the three races to date.

The broadcast which will be available on the official Formula 1 YouTube, Twitch, Weibo and Facebook channels, is expected to run for 1 hour 30 minutes, with a qualifying period where grid positions will be determined based on the drivers’ fastest lap time, followed by a 28-lap race. The Virtual Grand Prix will

also be broadcast live with international broadcast partners in over 100 countries including in the UK on Sky Sports, in the US on ESPN, and FOX Sports Asia across Southeast Asia.

The F1 Esports Pro Exhibition race will precede the Virtual Grand Prix – and is set to begin at 5:00pm (BST). The broadcast will be available on the official Formula 1 YouTube, Twitch and Facebook channels as well as selected TV broadcasters and is expected to run for 1 hour.

 Julian Tan, Head of Digital Business Initiatives and Esports said:

“We are delighted that so many fans are watching and engaging with the F1 Esports Virtual Grands Prix. The viewership continues to go from strength to strength, outlining the growing success of the races and the wider potential of Formula 1 in esports. Furthermore, we are thrilled to welcome more stars from outside the world of F1, to complement our strong F1 and motorsport driver grid, and use this opportunity to link up with other sports as we all stand together to give fans something to cheer about during these difficult times.”

Stokes on the Virtual GP & it bringing out his competitive edge…

Yes, I think it does. I think with whatever competitive environment you put a sportsman in its always going to bring out that competitive side of them even though it is a completely different area. At the end of the day it’s a competition.

Stokes on preparing differently a second time around…

Last time I literally did time trials to get used both e races - turns out it was pointless as everything was completely different. I have been doing a few more Grand Prix’s around the track and sticking to the regulations so I can get used to what it’s going to be like come race day. I have given myself a better chance, but I’m not saying I’m going to be any closer to the other drivers this time round. But I would say I have practiced a lot better this time round!

Stokes on the similarities between training for the Virtual GP & cricket…

It’s the same – we train and practice to go and play cricket, and I have been training and practicing for a formula 1 race. The track, the different corners - where to overtake, if I can. It’s all about preparation really, so I guess it is quite similar.

Stokes on competing against F1 stars…

I’m used to playing against other professional cricketers, at cricket. So, in terms of playing other professionals at their sport - it’s been pretty good. Obviously the first race I participated in shows just how good they are and it’s not just about getting in the car and driving, there is a lot more tactical things to think about. Not just physical but mental, too. All the controls on the wheel mean something on the car and you’ve got to concentrate on what the guys in the pits are saying as well. It was a great experience to understand what F1 racing is really about.

Stokes on first race nerves…

No real nerves, the only thing I was worried about was making a fool of myself, I guess. I started off pretty well then obviously I hit the grass and did a massive slide. I was devastated with that to be honest – still haven’t got over it! I wouldst say I have any nerves, it’s all a bit of fun - to be honest, I just really enjoyed it.

Stokes on staying sharp throughout isolation…

I have been keeping up to date with my fitness regime as much as I possibly can. It’s been tough as cricket is a very skilled based sport and you need that environment really to practice that kind of stuff. Especially when it comes to bowling and batting – that’s been difficult.

 Red Bull managed to send me out some gym equipment which has been very good and really beneficial to what I have to do. A power rack for weights and a Watt Bike. They have looked after me really, really well - and have tried to ensure that I have everything that I possibly need to help keep my fitness levels up. I’m not the only athlete they have done that for, I think they have done the same for all their athletes that needed it. They have done a fantastic job with things like that.

Stokes on cricket & transferable skills…

I reckon one of the real transferrable ones is reaction time. I’ve got my corner assist on which gives me an indication on when I have to brake and what line to take on that specific corner. You have to be pretty spot on otherwise you completely stuff the corner up or if you go to wide or tight you won’t get out of the corner fast enough. Having the reaction time to be able to get your foot on and off the pedal quickly is transferrable from cricket and practicing for F1, I guess.