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Six F1 legends to go head to head in unique race

A world first sees a current F1 driver in a real car go up against champions from the past in virtual form. It is something extraordinary!

A one-of-a-kind project that was two years in the making and involves six F1 legends is due to be aired later this month.

The first real versus virtual race, entitled 'Lap of Legends', features innovative technology that involves artificial intelligence and augmented reality that pits Williams driver Logan Sargeant against stars of the team's past in Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button.

The Michel ULTRA team, that devised the McEnroe vs McEnroe real/virtual spectacular from two years ago, has gone a step further with a 15-lap race around Silverstone, with Sargeant taking to the track in last year's Williams, competing with the virtual versions from the team's illustrious past.

A unique augmented reality helmet was developed, and tested on track by Ben Collins, a driver who became renowned for his role as 'The Stig' on Top Gear. That provided Sargeant with a window into the virtual world of the champions competing with him on the track and fed him real-time information about the race.

Overall, the team's research included more than 720 races and 1,260 hours of footage to mimic the speed, racing style, technique, and strategy of the drivers and their cars.

Andretti drove the FW07C from his one race with Williams in 1982; Mansell the FW14B from his 1992 title triumph; Prost the FW15C that gave him the last of his four championships in 1993; Hill the FW18 that made him champion in 1996; Villenueve the FW19 that took him to the title the following year, and Button the FW22 from his debut season in 2000.

A special day for the sport

With Sargeant in last year's FW45 - with this year's livery - but without certain aids such as DRS, the race then used 28 individual cameras, including four car-mounted, eight drones and 18 additional cameras around each of Silverstone's 18 corners.

Select media, including RacingNews365, were given an advanced screening ahead of the recent Miami Grand Prix - albeit only the first five laps were shown - of the programme that will air on May 14 on BBC America, AMC, and the Roku Channel. The one-hour special will also be streamed for free and distributed globally.

Button, the 2009 F1 champion with Brawn, helped present the show alongside fellow Sky Sports F1 pundit Naomi Schiff. Mansell, Prost and Villeneuve were also on hand at the track to watch the filming unfold. 

"This project is pushing the boundaries of both motorsport and technology," said Button. "That's what F1 is all about."

Button described the race as "a special day for the sport, entertainment, and every single driver who's raced through the decades to see this technology and how far we've come."

Prost said he could not have imagined just six months ago that such a race was possible. "Seeing the way they took all the elements and the parameters of the past to create a virtual race and recreate the way I drove is fantastic."

You can catch a trailer of the show below.

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