Vodcast: Ben Stokes and Alex Albon chat Virtual GP, and F1 vs cricket
Episode 4: England cricketer Stokes and Red Bull driver Albon join the Vodcast - which also includes Herbert, Croft and Brookes
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 06/04/20 5:28pm
What's it like being a cricketer racing against Formula 1 stars? It was an Esports special on the latest Sky F1 Vodcast as Ben Stokes, Alex Albon and Johnny Herbert joined Simon Lazenby fresh off the back of their - somewhat mixed - performances in Formula 1's latest Virtual Grand Prix.
It was a baptism of fire for Stokes as the England star went up against a field that included the likes of eventual race-winner Charles Leclerc, and the all-rounder discussed a range of topics on Episode 4 of our Vodcast...
Including why he was more nervous for the race than before the World Cup Super Over, getting tips from Red Bull team-mate Albon, and revealing that he wants to take on Stuart Broad next time!
- Vodcast: Episode 1 - What next for F1 in 2020?
- Vodcast: Episode 2 with Russell and Szafnauer
- Vodcast: Episode 4 - Lando Norris special
- At Home with Sky F1: Watch all episodes so far
'Massively out of my comfort zone'
Stokes was the only driver taking part on Sunday not to be, or have been, a professional racer - so it was no surprise that he struggled somewhat in his debut race. Although he certainly wasn't embarrassed.
Stokes wasn't too far off the pace in qualifying, and then moved up to 12th on the opening lap before spinning and eventually finishing last, after some battles with Sky F1's very own Johnny Herbert.
"The experience as a whole was great," Stokes, who only recently started practicing with a sim steering wheel, exclusively told Sky Sports F1. "I'm not going to lie, after the race I was in a bit of a huff because I came dead last!
"I obviously had to take into consideration who I was racing against, but the sportsman in me - I thought it would be great not to finish last. I was obviously gutted, but these guys know what they're doing. It was great fun."
Stokes said he embraced being part of the event and getting to know the current F1 stars, including Lando Norris and George Russell, while he also revealed he "couldn't spend more than an hour" on his racing rig at home because of back pain.
And it wasn't just the physical element he was battling, but nerves too...
"I was 100 per cent [more nervous than before the Super Over]," admitted Stokes, who famously helped England beat New Zealand in the World Cup final last year.
"I was massively out of my comfort zone doing something like this. It took me about five minutes to get into the race properly in terms of nerves."
Albon and Stokes on being team-mates, and tips
Stokes effectively replaced F1 superstar Max Verstappen for the race, as he partnered regular Red Bull driver Albon.
"He gave me a few tips throughout the week," said Stokes. "Honestly I've only really shown interest in F1 the last year, I didn't know that much about it, I thought it was just get in the car and drive it and see how fast you can go.
"There's so much more that's got to go into it. After doing it for a week, I've got a lot more respect for what you guys have to do. It's incredible."
But even Albon admitted that it was hard to give advice when he was an Esports novice himself!
"It was strange," Albon, who finished eighth in the race and had an epic battle with Jenson Button, stated. "It was quite hard to let Ben get up to speed. He was with a controller to start off with and then he moved to a proper steering wheel and pedals.
"In the game itself there are so many little tricks, and I was trying to tell Ben to basically understand that. But even me, I didn't really understand it. We were kind of learning together!
"I was asking the Red Bull Esports guys what to do and even two minutes before the race I was asking Charles [Leclerc] what lap he was going to pit because I had no idea what to do. But we'll be more prepared next time! It was good fun."
And Albon doesn't doubt that the F1 drivers will continue to play.
"During this conversation Charles has text the group chat to say we're all going to get on it tonight as well," he revealed.
Stokes and Albon also spoke about more job swaps, with the prospect of Stokes driving an F1 car for real touted, while the cricketer welcomed Albon to the nets with "no pads, no helmets, nothing".
Stokes vs Broad next time?
Albon isn't the only driver who wants to give the Virtual GP another go. Stokes said he would "100 per cent" be up for the next event, scheduled to be 'in' China in a fortnight.
"It wasn't just a case of turning up on the day and giving it a go, I put a lot of time and effort into it," explained Stokes, who was due to be in India competing in the IPL at the moment.
"It's the most competitive thing I've had over the last couple of weeks. Being in a sport where you're used to competing against other people all the time and then going to nothing - this was getting that competitive side back against other people."
Stokes also insisted that he wasn't the only cricketer interested in racing.
"Stuart Broad and Eoin Morgan are probably the two biggest fans. But I know a few of them have been to the F1 before. And since this game has come out there's been loads of guys playing."
So, could it be Stokes vs Broad next time?
"Broady has just ordered one of these rigs," he said. "We've been firing out some tweets to push me and him being in the next race so that we can race against each other."
Watch the full Vodcast - which includes a round-up of the latest F1 news from David Croft and Rachel Brookes - by clicking play on the video at the top of the article.