Formula One ace Max Verstappen was beaten by a bunch of Australian V8 Supercar drivers in his debut in the All-Stars Eseries racing simulation competition last night.
Although showing impressive pace in a Holden Commodore Supercar wearing Formula One-inspired livery, Verstappen couldn't quite match the leaders in the four races staged across two international circuits – England’s Silverstone and Spain’s Circuit de Catalunya – in the computer simulator iRacing.
Anton de Pasquale won race one at Silverstone, Cameron Waters took the chequered flag in the second race at the British circuit, while Shane Van Gisbergen scored back-to-back wins in races three and four in Spain.
Verstappen finished second in races one, three and four – however only able to manage 18th in race three. Scott McLaughlin – two-time V8 Supercars series winner and reigning champion – saw the podium once with a third place in the final race.
Seven-time V8 Supercar champion Jamie Whincup finished between 19th and 25th places across four races (click here for the full list of results).
The All Stars Eseries competition is Supercars’ answer to postponement of its real-life racing calendar due to COVID-19, pitting its racers against each other online in racing simulators.
Verstappen, a Formula One driver for Red Bull Racing, was announced as a wildcard entrant for round two of the competition on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be a challenge as it’s not a car I’ve driven a lot on the sim (simulator), but they are pretty cool to watch in real life,” Verstappen said during the announcement.
“We always race with Supercars in Melbourne so it’s going to be interesting to see how I get on against all the regular drivers.”
Above: Verstappen's Formula One-inspired livery
Race one of last night’s action at Silverstone saw Verstappen start from sixth on the grid, with Erebus Motorsport’s Anton de Pasquale on pole. After only a handful of corners, Verstappen was up into second place, however the Dutchman couldn’t close the gap to de Pasquale before crossing the finish line.
A reverse-grid – meaning cars automatically qualify in the reverse of where they placed in the previous race – ensured carnage at Silverstone for race two, as the faster drivers worked their way through the pack aggressively.
Verstappen piloted his beaten-up Commodore into the pits on lap three for a tyre change and repairs, only managing to pass the chequered flag in 18th. Monster Energy Racing driver Cameron Waters took the gold, with an impressive run from de Pasquale making up 24 places to finish in third.
Above: Round one at a rendered Phillip Island
Races three and four at Catalunya pitted Red Bull Racing drivers together, as Verstappen and Shane van Gisbergen (pictured above) battled for first around the winding circuit.
Differing tyre strategies saw the lead change between van Gisbergen and Verstappen more than once, with tyre wear ultimately slowing down Verstappen and handing his teammate the win in the final laps.
While preliminary viewer numbers for round two are not yet available, round one attracted an audience of more than 368,000 even without the international following of the Formula One star.
“It was a lot of fun,” Verstappen said in a post-race interview.
When asked if he would be joining in for round three set to take place at Bathurst’s Mount Panorama, Verstappen said:
“Let’s see what’s possible in the coming weeks. It was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it.”