Max Verstappen came under fire for his comments following his retirement from the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual.
The double F1 world champion was competing in the sim racing event with Team Redline and found himself a minute up on rivals when server issues caused him to disconnect.
By the time issues were overcome, the entry found itself two laps down in 15th position before the decision was taken to retire.
Verstappen said: "They can't even control their own game.
"This is already the third time this happens to me now that [I] get kicked off the game during this race so this is the last time I'm ever participating. Because what's the point?
"You prepare for five months to try and win this championship, you're leading the championship, you're trying to win this race which you prepared for two months – and they handle it like this!
"Honestly, it's a joke. You cannot call this an event... [it's] clown show."
Those comments put the Red Bull driver in the firing line, including from event commentator Ben Constanduros who defended those behind the event, but was Verstappen's outburst justified?
If it's a clown show, that makes me and my hard working dedicated friends, clowns. Usually after a 24hr race I am tired but today has been an ugly, exhausting display of the toxic side of Sim Racing and social media. I am proud of what the Le Mans Virtual Team has achieved. 1/3 https://t.co/Z8X30cUcpR
Since high-profile drivers joined the event in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, the race has not been without issue on the rFactor 2 platform [the 'game'].
Disconnections have been commonplace as the server struggles to deal with the volume of participants across the grid.
As a commentator on an rFactor 2-based championship, this writer can attest to server issues surpassing just the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual, but that doesn't mean those who spend weeks and months in preparation for the event don't have the right to be frustrated.
Not just for the drivers, but look at the teams that take part, look at the sponsors up and down the grid.
This is far from a game – this is a real race with real emotion, whether purists like it or not.
So Verstappen is well within his right to be furious with how events transpired. It is also worth noting that his comments appear to have been taken slightly out of context when seeing how those involved have reacted.
At no point, did Verstappen make his criticisms personal, or directed towards any single individual. There is no disputing the immense effort from all those behind the scenes to ensure the event went as smoothly as possible.
Event leaves lasting damage
The event will leave lasting damage as a whole for high-profile sim racing.
As mentioned above, this is far from a game and the community has experienced a meteoric rise in recent years due to the isolation caused by the pandemic.
With that comes exposure and the inclusion of motorsport superstars brings a non-traditional sim racing crowd to watch.
So when one such superstar, not least the reigning F1 world champion, highlights the shortcomings of the event and announces he would not return, that hits the existing community where it hurts.
For one of the platform's leading advocates within the racing world, this cuts deep. But there was nothing unfair about the rant.
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