Wrong direction! Liam Payne finishes last in Virtual Bahrain GP

Liam Payne, Chris Hoy and Ian Poulter failed to impress as they debuted in Formula One in the Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix.

Renault's test driver Guanyu Zhou won the virtual Bahrain Grand Prix.   -  Getty Images

Liam Payne finished comfortably last among the drivers to complete a Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix won by Guanyu Zhou.

Payne represented Williams in the first event of Formula One's Virtual Grand Prix Series, an Esports tournament filling the void in the absence of the usual race calendar amid the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the race's biggest name endured a painful F1 debut.

READ: Williams 'depends on' Liam Payne for Virtual Bahrain GP

Payne posted a single plodding qualifying time and was soon facing the wrong way in the race after a series of early crashes had initially allowed him to climb the standings.

The former X-Factor star was steadily caught and came in 17th, only ahead of gamer Aamir Thacker and Formula 2's Robert Shwartzman, who each crashed out.


Payne was a lap behind cyclist Chris Hoy, in 16th, while Ian Poulter came in 15th as the celebrities struggled.

Technical difficulties dogged the event, with Lando Norris unable to compete in qualifying and then seeing much of his race simulated after a lengthy delay that appeared to amuse and frustrate his rivals in equal measure.

The issues meant there were just 14 chaotic laps, but Renault test driver Zhou – Poulter's one-off team-mate – ultimately dominated.

Meanwhile, ex-F1 ace Nico Hulkenberg could only recover to finish in the midfield after a tricky start put paid to his hopes of a belated first podium of his career.

Hulkenberg had acknowledged pre-race he had little chance of success, though, describing rivals as "a lot of geeks on there that are really, really good" as he waited on Norris.

The series is set to continue until the F1 season is able to start, although Payne will do well to get a second invite before racing resumes.

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