The weekend of May 3, 2020 was supposed to be the return of the Dutch Grand Prix at historic Zandvoort to the Formula 1 calendar. That was the plan, at least – but as the world continues to evolve and adapt to the trying situation it finds itself in, goalposts move.
With the race postponed, it was not the first home Grand Prix for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen that the team had hoped for. But there was still cause for celebration for the Bulls, as they wrapped up a superb double-victory around a virtual Interlagos Circuit in Brazil, winning both the F1 Esports Pro Exhibition race, and the Virtual Grand Prix.
One man at the heart of it all? Step forward, Marcel Kiefer.
The third Pro Exhibition race was staged around Brazil after a fan vote; necessary given that Zandvoort is not yet a part of the official Formula 1 game. Side note – it will be featuring in F1 2020.
Kiefer scorched a last-gasp front-row start in Brazil, alongside poleman and 2019 F1 Esports Pro Series frontrunner Dani Bereznay. But a poor start for the Hungarian saw Kiefer surge into the lead, and save for the pit stop phase late in the race, he wouldn’t let go of it. Nor would he let go of the triumphant feeling that followed as he crossed the line.
“It’s a very proud feeling! I‘ve been waiting for this day for quite a while,” said the elated German.
“Representing Red Bull Racing and the whole Red Bull family makes me really proud – even more so that I showed on first try, I can handle expectations and pressure extremely well.”
Kiefer sat out the final four races of the 2019 Pro Series, as his team at the time, Racing Point, opted to trial newcomer Lucas Blakely. And though the Pro Exhibition races are just that – exhibitions – Kiefer’s form bodes very well for the Pro Series, when it eventually gets underway.
“I will make sure that I carry the momentum and maturity I‘ve shown in Brazil into the 2020 Pro Series, to fight for both constructors’ and drivers’ championships!“
It’s interesting to note that the aforementioned Blakely – Kiefer’s former teammate – was his closest rival not only in Brazil (where Blakely finished runner-up) – but also in the previous Pro Exhibition race in China, where the two collided during the race.
“I didn’t get the opportunity to apologise to Lucas for that incident,” he said, discussing with host Tom Deacon on the stream after the Brazil race.
“It looked a bit different on my screen, and I think there were some internet connection woes, but it doesn’t change the fact that I ruined his race, so I want to apologise for that.”
With a win under his belt and a hatchet buried, Kiefer then turned his attention to his other role with Red Bull Racing Esports – as The Technician. No one can win an F1 race on their own, and the same is true in the Virtual Grand Prix events, too.
“I‘m known in the community as Alex Albon‘s Technician/Engineer. I help him via team radio and give strategic calls, when to overtake, and the right rev range for the race start. As you can see, he absolutely nailed that last one!“
Though Albon was fortunate to avoid the Vandoorne-Fittipaldi collision at the start, his hooked-up launch meant that he emerged into Turn 1 in the lead, something that was crucial for his race.
“It‘s a perfect symphony between Alex and me. He‘s really down to earth and enthusiastic about any kind of racing, just like me, so we get along superbly. We also share a similar humour, and it‘s just always a laugh and a half with Alex on and off track.”
Stepping out of the cockpit and onto the pit wall isn’t something we’re used to seeing in the real world. So, what’s it like fulfilling two different roles in such a short space of time?
“Managing my own time and investment in my skills, whilst helping out as an engineer isn‘t the easiest task to juggle, but it’s a fun one. But I‘m really fortunate to work with a talent like Alex, who nails every bit of advice on the first try. Besides his talent he is just a great human!“
It’s difficult to argue with that. #RaceAtHome. That’s the message the FIA have been spreading, and it’s one that Albon and his peers have shared far and wide.
On any given day you can find the likes of Albon, Charles Leclerc, George Russell, Lando Norris, and others racing a plethora of games and vehicles on streams – from trucks, to F1 cars, to lawnmowers.
Times are tougher than ever. But as fans of racing and entertainment, we’re all fortunate that we have the option of momentary escapism – to #RaceAtHome.
Alongside these light-hearted streams, the Challenge Series, F2 Virtual Racing, the Pro Exhibition races, and the Virtual Grand Prix Series, there’s plenty for F1 fans to enjoy while the current global situation keeps us all at home.
Our next race day takes place on Sunday May 10, with F2 Virtual Racing, F1 Esports Pro Exhibition, and Virtual Grand Prix races set to race around Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, home of the Spanish Grand Prix.