Max Verstappen is well known as an online sim racer during his off weekends from Formula 1, and occasionally takes part in online endurance events when his busy schedule allows him the opportunity.
One such opportunity comes this weekend, as Verstappen will be taking part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual with his usual online squad Team Redline.
The online communities in games and simulator software such as F1 2021, Gran Turismo, Assetto Corsa, iRacing and rFactor are already huge, and continuing to grow.
Verstappen says the sheer demand of trying to keep up with the very best sim racers has real-world benefits, which he's able to apply when he returns to his Red Bull F1 car.
"It keeps me ready to go, because I'm spending a lot of time also then on the setup," Verstappen said in an interview with personal sponsor CarNext.
"I'm not racing a Formula 1 car on the simulator, but it's like GT cars, so it's also a different technique of driving.
"I just keep testing myself, and especially these sim drivers... they're so quick!
"It's very interesting to see them drive because they have no real experience of a car but, somehow, when you look at how they're braking, how they're controlling, it is how it should be.
"It's very interesting for me to then compare myself to them, because they're naturally quick on the sim, I'm naturally quick in real life. For me, that's another motivation, because I know that I'm confident that when I want to jump in a real car, I'll be quick.
"But on the simulator, these guys are the benchmark and I have to push myself to that limit. I like to test myself and improve myself to also learn from them so [in] my downtime, I'm still trying to improve myself, which I think also helps me in real life."
"I'll be on Discord texting the guys during an F1 weekend!"
Verstappen's outfit for sim racing are Team Redline, which have become renowned as one of the very best sim racing teams across the categories.
Reflecting on a successful 2021, Verstappen said that he takes sim racing as seriously as real-life racing and will even spend time discussing online setups with his team at the same time as trying to set up his Red Bull for an F1 Grand Prix.
"We have a lot of drivers and we had an amazing year; we've won basically almost everything within the sim racing community," he explained.
"That was also a lot of fun to be part of, because I was having a good time on track winning in Formula 1, but also sharing these moments with them.
"Actually, sometimes being part of the line-up, winning these races, it's just amazing, because it's the same - you're also pushing flat out, you need to take it seriously, you really need to work together to make it happen.
"You can change a lot of things on the setup and then it's all about preparation, strategy as well, because when you're doing a 24-hour race around the Nordschleife, it's quite tough!
"Even during the F1 weekends when I jump out of my car, I would be on Discord texting the guys, 'Hey, guys, how's it going?', if they have a race, or keep me updated with setup things, ideas to try, all these kinds of things."
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