All to know about Max Verstappen’s sim racing career amid Le Mans 24 Hours ambition

Verstappen shocked the F1 paddock when he dovetailed the Imola Grand Prix with a Nurburgring 24 Hours sim race — both of which he won.

The Red Bull driver claimed the chequered flag at Imola just 15 minutes after Verstappen’s co-driver Chris Lulham sealed his team’s victory at the Nordschleife on iRacing, the simulator platform the Nurburgring 24 Hours took place on.

It received a lot of attention throughout the weekend, but Red Bull team boss Christian Horner squashed any concerns that Verstappen’s sim racing commitments would negatively impact his hunt for a fourth consecutive F1 world championship.

«He is basically a racing machine, so it is quite often he is testing different set-ups in the evening and this kind of thing, so it is not unusual for him to be doing that,» said Horner. «He has won two races today. One in a BMW M3 and one in a Formula 1 car.»

So how long has Verstappen competed in sim racing and what might the future hold?

What is Max Verstappen’s sim racing team?

Redline is a prolific and successful team in the virtual world

Redline is a prolific and successful team in the virtual world

Photo by: Motorsport Games

Verstappen drives for Team Redline, which is a professional outfit competing at the highest level of endurance sim racing.

The organisation was founded in 2000 by Dom Duhan, who spotted an increase in the market after he’d competed across various racing titles himself. Redline has since become one of the most successful teams in the industry, winning titles like the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series from 2012 to 2015.

Redline’s competitiveness has not waned over the years either, and 2022 was a particularly strong one with victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours before dominating the BMW Sim GT Cup, Formula Pro Series, Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup and DTM Esports.

It all led to Redline winning the Autosport Esports Team of the Year Award in 2022.

But seven years before that, its partnership with Verstappen began. This came as a result of Redline director Atze Kerkhof working with the then-F1 rookie during his F3 campaign at Van Amersfoort Racing in 2014. The two developed a good rapport while spending time in the team’s simulator, so Kerkhof offered Verstappen an opportunity at Redline.

Redline has long been known for its ability to attract big-name drivers though, because Verstappen joined a line-up that already consisted of Richie Stanaway, who has won in various real-life series including GP2, GP3 and the World Endurance Championship.

The big names don’t end there either, because Lando Norris and Verstappen won the Spa 24 Hours as Redline co-drivers in an Audi R8 LMS in 2019. Both have been big advocates for the Esports industry and Spa was just one of several iRacing events that Norris has competed in, like that year’s Bathurst 12 Hours.

Although Norris’ involvement has since decreased, Verstappen is still sim racing as much as ever. So much so that Redline has used Racing — the Dutchman’s official website — branding since 2023, while Red Bull is also a sponsor of the team.

Under the guidance of Racing, Redline continues to compete in Esports championships while owning a state-of-the-art facility in the Dutch city of Tilburg.

How does Max Verstappen perform in sim racing?

Verstappen is a sim racing regular

Verstappen is a sim racing regular

Photo by: iRacing

Verstappen’s busy schedule means he only competes in selected sim racing events, but that does not harm his performances.

The F1 world champion added to his Spa victory with a win at the 2021 Bathurst 12 Hours, which Kerkhof described as his best sim race to date due to Verstappen being quickest by four tenths in qualifying.

That was also the year that Verstappen claimed his maiden victory at the Nurburgring 24 Hours, as well as finishing on the podium in Barcelona and Daytona as part of different partially-fought iRacing championship campaigns.

Verstappen has firmly established himself as one of the best sim racers in the world.

But he was the centre of controversy at the 2022-23 Le Mans Virtual Series season-finale — a championship where Verstappen competed in the final three rounds.

After second at Spa-Francorchamps and fourth at Sebring, Verstappen and his team led the standings heading into the Le Mans 24 Hours with an ORECA 07.

And they looked set to clinch the title as they were leading in the second half of the race, until technical issues disconnected Verstappen from the session. Redline had dropped back two laps when Verstappen rejoined, so the team opted to retire.

But the event had already suffered two red flags because of technical issues, with the Le Mans Virtual Series citing streamers accidentally sharing the servers’ Internet Protocol (IP) address. Verstappen was furious nonetheless, launching an attack on the event organisers and rFactor 2, which was the video game platform.

Verstappen has endured virtual Le Mans frustrations

Verstappen has endured virtual Le Mans frustrations

He said: «They call it amazingly bad luck, well this is just incompetence. They can’t even control their own game. This is already the third time that has happened to me now, being kicked off the game while doing this race.

«So it’s also the last time I’m ever participating. What’s the point? You prepare for five months to try and win this championship, you’re leading the championship, you try to win this race which you prepare for two months, and they handle it like this.»

Verstappen’s sim racing luck has not been as bad since, as he won the opening heat of the Imola round in the 2023 AMX Global League season. He has also competed in numerous iRacing events in 2024 kickstarting with victory in the Daytona 24 Hours GTD class.

That was despite the team qualifying ninth in a Mercedes-AMG GT3, but it worked with the second Redline car by giving each other slipstreams to help both move up the order. Verstappen drove the Saturday evening stint, as Redline claimed the lead during the night before finishing at least a lap ahead of the rest of the class.

Verstappen achieved more 24-hour format success when his Redline car claimed victory at the Nordschleife just four months later.

Having to race alongside the Imola GP, Verstappen drove a three-hour stint on the Saturday evening before a two-hour session the following morning, which was crucial in Redline solidifying its lead and then victory.

So, as Verstappen continues to claim victories in both virtual and real-life racing, he has every right to rubbish claims that it might harm his performances in F1.

«I think I’m professional enough that I know what can and can’t be done,” said Verstappen. «If you don’t go to bed and you don’t sleep, it won’t be good for your race on Sunday. But I think with so many years of experience I do know what to do.»

How can I watch Max Verstappen’s sim racing?

F1 star tackles a huge range of different virtual events

F1 star tackles a huge range of different virtual events

Photo by: Xynamic

Fans can watch Verstappen compete in sim races via livestreaming platform Twitch, as Redline has its own channel with over 200,000 followers where it broadcasts each event.

Luke Crane often commentates during the livestream and he joked about Verstappen’s involvement across the Nurburgring/Imola weekend.

«We are Team Redline, Max races for us,» said Crane. «We are the team that allows him to express himself in F1. We allowed him to still do Imola, because we are that kind of team.

«We don’t want to ever stop our drivers from doing their hobbies. We’re very supportive, we’re never going to hold people back.»

Could Max Verstappen switch to endurance racing in real life?

The Verstappens have discussed racing together in sportscars

The Verstappens have discussed racing together in sportscars

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Verstappen previously said that he “definitely would like” to compete at the real-life Le Mans 24 Hours as doubts linger over his F1 future beyond 2028, the year his Red Bull contract expires.

His Le Mans pursuit may even come with his own team, as the Dutchman and his family are planning a two-car GT3 outfit that could compete in series like GT World Challenge from 2025 onwards through Racing.

But he would like to do things differently, by running a squad of sim racers who have been trained to compete in real-life GT3 racing.

«If I do something, I want to do it right — I want to win with this as well,» said Verstappen. «And it’s about creating a stepping stone from sim racing to GT3, so that you don’t have to only go through karting to get into motorsports, because that costs a lot of money at the moment.

«We have been working on it for a while. The planning phase is over, we are in action mode now.»

Verstappen has previously revealed that he’s even been speaking to double F1 world champion and two-time Le Mans winner Fernando Alonso about an outing at Circuit de la Sarthe.

But, when Verstappen inevitably moves into other racing categories, remains to be seen, as he told Autosport in 2022 that «I am not in a hurry. A lot of things are changing in endurance racing and it’s better to wait and see how everything turns out”.

Source link