LONDON (Reuters) - Sergio Aguero may be scared about returning to action in the Premier League but the Manchester City striker will join Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Barcelona midfielder Arthur Melo on a Formula One esports grid this weekend.
The Argentine, City’s all-time top scorer, will race at home for Red Bull against regular Formula One drivers in the Virtual Spanish Grand Prix, the fifth of a series started during the COVID-19 shutdown.
Sunday would have been the day of the Spanish race at the Circuit de Catalunya but that has been postponed due to the pandemic.
Belgium international Courtois, a keen gamer who has featured already in the series, will represent Alfa Romeo with Brazil’s Melo racing for Haas on the official F1 2019 video game.
Golfer Ian Poulter, who has a simulator set up in the garage of his Florida home, will also be making another appearance for Renault in what has become something of a pro-celebrity series rather than a reflection of the real grid.
“Motorsport is a great passion of mine so to be given the opportunity to take part in the Virtual Spanish GP is very exciting for me,” Aguero said in a Red Bull statement.
The 31-year-old, who shares a sponsor in kit maker Puma, has attended F1 races and track days and is looking forward to putting on his racing boots to join last weekend’s winner Alexander Albon in the team’s lineup.
“This takes it to the next level and gives me the opportunity to race and compete against real F1 drivers — I can’t wait,” said Aguero, who has not been able to play soccer since March.
The striker, locked down at home with his girlfriend, recently made headlines for saying he was scared about returning to action in the Premier League, with Britain suffering the most COVID-19 fatalities in Europe.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, McLaren’s Lando Norris, Williams duo George Russell and Nicholas Latifi and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi will also take part.
Formula One said last weekend’s Virtual Dutch Grand Prix reached 2.5 million views across F1’s digital platforms, with the four events receiving a total of 15.4 million views on F1’s own channels.
Combined with television estimates, with the virtual race broadcast in more than 100 countries including Sky in Britain and ESPN in the United States, Formula One said 18.9 million people had tuned in so far.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge