Pagenaud unsportsmanlike behaviour casts a shadow over Sim-Racing
There was controversy last weekend as Simon Pagenaud deliberately crashed into F1 star Lando Norris during an IndyCar esports event. With the race between stars of IndyCar and F1 driver Lando Norris heating up Norris went down the inside of Pagenaud leading to a three wide situation going into the next left hander. Due to the close racing a net code failure meant for Pagenaud Norris had pushed him right and crash out, while the footage from Norris's perspective show no contact whatsoever.
After having pitted to repair the car Pagenaud and Bretzman then discussed where Norris was and every indication was given to ruin Norris' race. As the leaders came up to lap Pagenaud it was clear Pagenaud slowed down giving Norris nowhere to go and ruining his race. In the immediate aftermath Pagenaud claimed he couldn't do anything to prevent the crash despite the proof it was co-ordinated. The video of the incident/aftermath can be found below.
Afterward Norris was clear on his feelings and was rightly angered at the lack of sportsmanship calling Pagenaud 'Salty' claiming that he didn't want the Brit to win as he wasn't one of the series regulars. The clip showing Lando's reaction to the incident can be found here.
Considering the circumstances for the event taking place and the entertainment and competitiveness of racing, it is a shame that despite this only being a virtual race incidents took place that harmed the legitimacy and integrity of virtual sim racing. The pandemic has opened up the doors to a new audience witnessing virtual sim racing and unsportsmanlike behaviour that compromises races and delivers controversy will only turn viewers away and bring shame to the names involved.
In this incident the Pagenaud crash focuses in on the negatives of what should have been a highly successful venture into a medium that otherwise may not have seen the same attention at this point in the normal calendar year. Professional drivers such as Charles Leclerc, George Russell and Alexander Albon have all participated in the F1 esports scene giving the series a legitimacy that wasn't present in the past. This springboard moment for motorsport esports has become an important one and the actions of Pagenaud have muddied the waters of expectation for fans.