London: Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is aiming for a top 10 finish when he joins Red Bull’s Alexander Albon and five other regular Formula One racers for Sunday’s virtual Chinese Grand Prix.
The Belgian international is a serious gamer and has become an esports regular during the COVID-19 lockdown, with both the football and motor racing seasons on hold, as athletes compete online from home.
Six times Olympic cycling gold medallist Chris Hoy and World Cup-winning England cricketer Ben Stokes raced for Red Bull in the two previous virtual grands prix but ended up among the tail-enders.
Courtois has his sights on more than just taking part in a 28-lap race that will be televised live by Formula One’s broadcast partners in more than 100 countries as well as on social channels.
“I love the game, I’ve faced Alex a few times already on track and racing against other F1 drivers is pretty awesome,” said the 27-year-old.
“Practice over the last few weeks has seen me always around the middle of the grid so I’m hoping to get into the points.”
Sunday would have been the day of the real Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai but that race is one of seven to have been postponed so far due to the pandemic.
Apart from Thai racer Albon, the other regular F1 drivers taking part are McLaren’s Lando Norris, the Williams pairing of George Russell and Nicholas Latifi, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Leclerc won the previous virtual Vietnam Grand Prix on his Formula One esports debut.
“From an esports perspective, the last Virtual Grand Prix was one of our most successful events we’ve ever put on, so it’s great to be back and be able to continue building something that has proven hugely popular,” said F1 esports head Julian Tan.