Williams 'depends on' Liam Payne for Virtual Bahrain GP

Liam Payne, Chris Hoy and Ian Poulter are all involved in a new Esports series on Sunday, but Max Verstappen was not interested.

What can't Liam Payne do? (File photo)   -  Getty Images

Former One Direction member Liam Payne already let slip during the Laureus Awards that he could have been an Olympian had he pursued his running aspirations. Now, it seems the singer is exploring his need for speed as a Formula One driver. However, there's a catch.

Payne is in the line-up for the first race in F1's Virtual Grand Prix Series on Sunday.

The F1 calendar has been rocked by the coronavirus pandemic, with the season - which should have started last week in Australia - not set to get under way until June at the earliest. In its stead, the competition has launched an exhibition Esports tournament to be played out on Codemasters' F1 2019.

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The first event is the Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix and, alongside a number of F1 drivers, Payne will race for Williams.

The 26-year-old, who shot to fame on The X-Factor, will join F1 debutant Nicholas Latifi, last season's Formula 2 runner-up.

Payne is not the only celebrity entrant, with six-time Olympic champion cyclist Chris Hoy turning out for Red Bull.

Max Verstappen this week declined the opportunity to race for Red Bull as he did not feel he could be competitive.

"I never play that game," he told Ziggo TV. "It will take days to understand the game just a little bit better. And I don't want to get into it right now.

"Also [it is] because I'm very busy with the other racing games, so switching between all those games just doesn't work for me.

"And on top of that, I always race to win. I'm not going to drive around somewhere at the back. Then I'd rather not participate at all."

F1 assured "game settings will be configured in such a way to encourage competitive and entertaining racing", acknowledging a "wide variety of gaming skill levels". 

Golfer Ian Poulter will represent Renault, meanwhile, with each participant entering remotely from 2000 GMT.

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