Norris feeling real-life benefits from eSports as Russell & Leclerc enjoy the banter

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Lando Norris believes he is finding more real-life benefits from competing in eSports now than at any time previously.

The McLaren driver led the way, along with Max Verstappen, in putting his skills on an actual racetrack to the test in the virtual world, well before the current boom in interest during the coronavirus lockdown.

Because of that, Norris has been particularly in demand, competing in a myriad of cars ranging from F1 to IndyCar and most recent Australian Supercars.

However, after a controversial IndyCar event at Indianapolis last weekend, which saw him intentionally taken out of the lead by Simon Pagenaud with two laps to go, he revealed the real-life aspects that are becoming more applicable to eSports.

“I think the IndyCar race that we just competed in was probably the most involved I’ve been in terms of working on my driving,” he told Sky Sports.

“I guess bringing [ex-McLaren engineer] Jarv into it, and a few of the McLaren guys – I’ve been working with the McLaren Arrow SP team, working with Pato [O’Ward], with Ollie [Askew], with Robbie [Wickens].

“Being able to look at the data in-depth and actually having my F1 engineer from last year going through things, understanding how to really work on different areas [helped]."

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What surprised Norris more than anything how was his online racing approach mirrored reality.

“A lot of the things I was doing and my characteristics on the actual race track, I was actually replicating on the simulator, some are good, some are bad, but it’s very good in terms of being able to work on those things," he explained.

“It’s getting more and more scientific, getting more data involved, and the programmes are getting better and better.

“It’s not there and it’s not real, for sure, and it’s still a simulation at the end of the day.

“But you’re still able to look at things in a lot of depth, look at a lot of traces on the data, build set-up and improve driving from everything.

“So it’s still very interactive to work with.”

During the lockdown, George Russell and Charles Leclerc have joined Norris on streaming platform Twitch.

But while Lando is feeling more immersion, his fellow Brit isn't quite there yet.

"It’s definitely not the real thing," he also told Sky. 

"Part of racing is that feel sat in the car, driving through the corner at Silverstone at 180-200 miles an hour and [having] a bit of that fear factor and adrenaline whereas, when you’re sat in your living room and you’ve got a cup of tea on your side, it’s not really the same."

Instead, both Russell and Leclerc are simply enjoying the banter.

“(Sim racing) is not the same thing as reality for sure, and it will never be exactly the same thing as reality, but for now in a situation like this it is the closest we can get,” the Ferrari driver said.

“We are all having fun. I think this situation also made George, myself and Alex [Albon]… we probably lost a little bit of contact in terms of speaking to each other over the years with the different categories we were doing.

“Now in a situation like that it’s great to find each other again and to have fun all together racing and doing what we like, so it’s great.”