Esports - Russell beats Albon to virtual British GP win

LONDON (Reuters) - Williams driver George Russell chalked up a fifth successive win on Sunday in a virtual British Grand Prix that also saw a female gamer line up for the first time in an official Formula One esports race.

The Briton, who had to miss last weekend's first race of the virtual Austria-Britain-Brazil triple header, beat Red Bull's Alexander Albon with Ferrari reserve driver Callum Ilott rounding off the podium.

French gamer Alethea Boucq, who has her own sim racing channel on YouTube, competed for the Alpine (Renault) team and finished 15th.

Russell won last year's esports virtual grand prix series, shown live on F1's digital platforms and broadcast partners, after finishing with four straight wins.

The series, with gamers and real race drivers competing remotely on the Formula One video game, aims to provide some entertainment during the pandemic and before the F1 season starts in Bahrain on March 28.

Albon, who lost his race seat with Red Bull at the end of last season and is now a reserve, crossed the line first but a time penalty dropped the Thai to second.

"I wanted to win it fair and square but Alex just did me at the end. I think it was a win-win for the GR/Albono duo," said Russell.

Russell, who shone on the real racetrack last season as a stand-in for Mercedes' seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain after his compatriot tested positive for COVID-19, started fifth.

Double F1 esports champion Brendon Leigh had secured pole position for Ferrari in the professional gamers sprint race that determined the grid for the real drivers and celebrities.

The races have a charity prize fund with teams' winnings going to the causes of their choice.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

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