'Esport camaraderie great for the drivers'

At a time when esports is in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, Charles Leclerc says it has gone a long way towards helping F1 drivers bond.

Leclerc signed up for Formula 1’s Virtual Grands Prix, winning his first two races before Alexander Albon beat him to the chequered flag at the Interlagos circuit on Sunday night.

It may not be the real thing, but Leclerc says he’s enjoying his time racing against his fellow F1 drivers.

“(Sim racing) is not the same thing as reality for sure, and it will never be exactly the same thing as reality, but for now in a situation like this it is the closest we can get,” Leclerc told Sky Sports after the race.

“We are all having fun.”

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The races have allowed Leclerc to reconnect with George Russell and Albon, both drivers he raced against as a youngster.

However, having climbing the ranks, he admits the bond weakened as all three concentrated on their individual paths towards Formula 1.

He added: “I think this situation also made George [Russell], myself and Alex… we probably lost a little bit of contact in terms of speaking to each other over the years with the different categories we were doing.

“Now in a situation like that it’s great to find each other again and to have fun all together racing and doing what we like, so it’s great.”

Despite losing to Albon in Sunday’s Virtual Interlagos race, Leclerc says he had a lot of fun.

He battled the Red Bull driver throughout the race, similar to his tussle against Max Verstappen in Austria last year.

He said: “There was less contact and even more overtaking than Austria – it was proper fun!

“I knew I had the penalty but it was all about having fun. I kept overtaking Alex, I didn’t want him to go, even knowing that George would come back and it would probably cost me the second place.

“But I really enjoyed this race, it was proper. I had a great time.”

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