F1 Virtual GP: New format a winner for Marcel Kiefer

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The Vritual GP returned in all its glory at the weekend, and with a remarkable new format that really showed off everything about F1 Esports and its community.

A five-lap race involving the F1 Esports drivers was used to set the grid for the Virtual GP, which was 50% race distance. It was an action-packed evening of racing.

The new format had plenty of positives and turned out to be absolute winner, especially for the Esports drivers.

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We sat down with Red Bull's Marcel Kiefer to discuss all things Virtual GP.

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Showing off Esports to the masses

With four seasons in the bank, F1 Esports continues to grow, but is still one of those corners of the F1 world that fans aren't exposed to very much.

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By integrating these talented sim racers into the Virtual GP with a five-lap race that sets the grid, fans got to see the fastest gamers in the world go toe-to-toe and wheel-to-wheel in a far more laid back and aggressive way than ever before.

Marcel Kiefer, part of Red Bull's Teams Championship-winning lineup in 2020, is a huge fan of the change.

F1 Esports Austria Red Bull 1 2 PIC 1
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FLYING AT HOME: Kiefer took victory in Austria during the 2020 F1 Esports season

"It was a bit of cool fun [...] it was more like racing with friends than anything serious." said Kiefer.

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"It was a cool format. I think it's also quite fun to see us setting the grid for the real drivers so we get more involved in the actual Virtual GP."

It certainly was a fun race, which saw Kiefer and new Ferrari driver Brendon Leigh get into a heated battle for third place.

"It keeps a connection up with the fans and gets them a bit more involved in what we are doing because then they care a bit more about the Esports drivers."

Working with the drivers

Marcel is far more involved in the Virtual GP than your average Esports driver though, as he helps train Red Bull's competitors for the races.

Dubbed "The Technician" for his work with Alex Albon during the 2020 Virtual GP series. Marcel has revived his role of working with the Red Bull drivers this year.

"He still knows a lot of stuff from last year. The game changed a bit but he's a good driver, he knows how to adapt." said Kiefer when we asked him about his work with Albon.

The F1 Esports star walked Albon through some of those changes live on Twitch, before enjoying a session of Rocket League with Red Bull's 2021 reserve driver.

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Alex Albon Virtual GP
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QUICK STUDY: It hasn't taken Albon long to get up to speed in F1 2020

Kiefer isn't just working with an F1 star though, he is also helping Red Bull's other driver improve. Last week that was coaching former MXGP champion Jeffery Herlings.

"Jeffery was completely new to the game. It's really difficult for the people that spend zero time on the game then they get thrown into that situation to compete with guys like Alex."

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Marcel had some important advice for those more inexperienced or new drivers.

"Take your time. You won't just get quick because you force yourself to. You need to find the confidence. If you are confident then it will be much easier. Don't overdrive, give yourself time. I also spun at the beginning because I was too greedy. It doesn't bring you anything it just holds you back from improving."

Sound advice that we should all take onboard!

Virtual GP heads to Silverstone

The Virtual GP paddock heads from Austria to the home of British motorsport, Silverstone.

This high-speed circuit is beloved by nearly every driver. It's flowing nature should lead to some amazing battles too.

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BROTHERLY LOVE: The Fittipaldi brothers have put Haas atop the Virtual GP standings

It should also have far kinder track limits, which were causing a lot of penalties in Austria for every driver.

We should see driver announcements and lineups getting confirmed in the run-up to Sunday.

The coverage will start at 6pm GMT on Sunday, 7 February. You can watch via Formula 1's official Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube channels or on Sky Sports F1.