LONDON (Reuters) – Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte and AC Milan’s Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma will be up against eight regular Formula One drivers in the sport’s penultimate virtual grand prix on Sunday.
The pair are the latest soccer players to try their hands at the wheel after the likes of City striker Sergio Aguero, Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubumeyang and Real Madrid ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois.
Belgium international Courtois returns for the fourth time with the Alfa Romeo team on a grid that mixes F1 drivers, gamers and sporting celebrities racing from home in a format that is largely for fun but with some bragging rights.
Frenchman Laporte will race in the virtual Azerbaijan Grand Prix for Renault while Donnarumma takes his simulator seat for the Red Bull-owned Italy-based AlphaTauri team.
The final race of the esports series will be the virtual Canadian Grand Prix on June 14, with Formula One due to start its real, coronavirus-delayed season at Austria’s Red Bull Ring on July 5.
Organisers said more than 22 million viewers had watched the simulator races so far, with all competitors taking part from home.
Racing Point’s Mexican Sergio Perez and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly will make their debuts on Sunday alongside F1 regulars Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), Alex Albon (Red Bull), Lando Norris (McLaren), George Russell and Nicholas Latifi (both Williams) and Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo).
Russell is chasing his third successive victory.
Sunday’s race falls on the day the postponed Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku was due to take place.
The virtual race will use the official F1 2019 video game and be shown live through Formula One’s broadcast partners and on digital platforms.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)