In the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, many motoring events have been forced to cancel. Through the magic of technology, and for the benefit of their fans, many race bodies have taken to the internet to keep racing alive, albeit on the worldwide web.

The 2020 SRO E-Sports GT Series is a virtual e-sports series that uses Assetto Corsa Competizione, the official GT World Challenge Powered by AWS racing simulation game. Yesterday, the series flagged-off at a virtual Silverstone circuit, and amongst the racers was former Formula One champion Jenson Button.

Button bagged his F1 championship with Brawn GP in 2009, and then drove for McLaren. After his F1 career, he has gone on to become a real-life team owner in GT competition with Jenson Team Rocket RJN. After debuting into the world of virtual motorsports with an online F1 Grand Prix earlier this month, he was set to get into the virtual cockpit of a McLaren 720S GT, thus mirroring his current real-life race effort.

Jenson Button to race for McLaren... online image

“Race day” started off shaky as Button managed only 14th place in qualifying. He made four places up to 10th right since the green light, and all looked well. At least until he collided with former Renault junior driver Arthur Rougier’s Audi and David Perel’s Ferrari who himself was also a decorated real-life race driver.

With a top-caliber F1 champion knocked out of contention due to the crash and subsequent repairs, another (current) F1 driver was making his way up the ladder. Scuderia Ferrari F1’s Charles Leclerc qualified for 24th place on the grid, and showed flashes of brilliance when he moved up to 17th in the opening laps. But alas, much like his F1 senior, a win (or even a heroic charge up the ladder) was not meant to be.

After having tangled twice with F2 veteran Luca Ghiotto’s Aston Martin – once at Stowe and another at Abbey – Leclerc was handed a drive-through penalty for their dicing stint and managed to recover to 21st place at the end of the 1-hour race.

The second round of the Series is set to be held in May at a virtual Spa Francorchamps.