LONDON: Jenson Button won a ‘Legends Trophy’ esports race last night with fellow retired Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve going from last to sixth on his virtual debut.
Button, racing in the Brawn GP colours with which he won the 2009 F1 championship, led from pole to flag on a virtual Sebring track.
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, an Indianapolis 500 and Monaco Grand Prix winner, was second with British touring car racer Andy Priaulx finishing third. All were racing remotely from their homes due to the new coronavirus pandemic.
Button’s winnings of $10,000 will be donated to a charity of his choice.
“It’s amazing how nervous you get,” said the Briton. “I was more nervous on this in the race than I am in real life. I think it’s because every corner you feel like you’re going to end up in the tyre barriers.”
Villeneuve, who won the 1997 Formula One title and IndyCar championship in 1995 along with a victory at the Indianapolis 500, was one of three ex-F1 champions competing.
The Canadian’s performance was all the more impressive for using an Xbox controller rather than a racing wheel.
Brazil’s 73-year-old double F1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, joining a cast of Indianapolis 500 winners racing in McLaren M23 cars from his 1970s era, finished 16th.
There was mass-car chaos at the start, opening the way for Villeneuve to move up.
The virtual series, organised by Torque Esports and www.the-race.com, is one of several that have moved to fill the gap left by real motor racing around the world being shutdown by the pandemic.