Ben Stokes ‘gutted’ after finishing last in F1 Virtual Grand Prix debut but would do it again ‘in a heartbeat’

Jack de Menezes
Ben Stokes finished last on his F1 Virtual Grand Prix debut: Instagram/Stokesy

Cricket World Cup-winner Ben Stokes admitted he was “gutted” to finish last on his Formula One Virtual Grand Prix debut, but the England star has vowed to give it another go after enjoying Sunday night’s Australian Grand Prix.

Stokes was one of 20 drivers who competed in the second Virtual Grand Prix event, which took place at Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit in place of the postponed Vietnamese Grand Prix.

The first eight races of the 2020 F1 season have been postponed or cancelled, which has led the sport to organise virtual races on each day where a Grand Prix was due to take place that feature current F1 stars, former drivers and other well-known names.

After former One Direction star Liam Payne made a guest appearance in the opening race two weeks ago, Sunday saw cricketer Stokes make his debut for the Red Bull team, with the 28-year-old joining current F1 star Alex Albon for the energy drink outfit.

A disappointing qualifying session saw Stokes placed last on the grid, although penalties for Sky Sports presenters and ex-F1 drivers Johnny Herbert and Anthony Davidson promoted Stokes to 16th as Lando Norris and Esteban Gutierrez were both disconnected from the event.

The all-rounder made a strong start too, running as high as 12th on the second ap as those around him failed to stay on the track, but Stokes put a wheel on the grass on the exit of the penultimate corner that sent him spinning around and to the back of the field where he would battle Herbert in an attempt to not finish last - only for a second spin to cost him dearly late on.

“Well as much fun as that was I’m a bit gutted I came last,” Stokes said. “It’s the sportsman in me I guess!

“I felt I started off pretty well but that spin out early on will haunt me forever. My plan for the tyres was to start with a medium compound, then finish on soft, but that didn’t happen. Instead I started on softs had to change to mediums, then went back to soft - so basically the whole the plan went out the window.

“My Red Bull teammate, Alex Albon, tried his hardest to give me the best chance possible by giving me tips but he’s not a miracle worker! That being said, the rest of the drivers obviously have been doing this for a long time so I’m pretty proud of my effort from only a week’s worth of practice.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat, I absolutely loved it.”

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc secured a dominant victory at his first attempt, having only started to get to grips with the game a week before his Virtual Grand Prix debut, while F2 driver Christian Lundgaard and Williams’ George Russell completed the podium.

The next event takes place on 19 April with the Virtual Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit.