Ministry of Sport

F1’s Virtual Grand Prix Debut Draws 3.2 Million Online Viewers

Formula One’s Esports Virtual Grand Prix debut on March 22 saw 3.2 million online viewers tune in for opening event.

The Esports event was announced following the postponement and cancellation of all the 2020 Formula One opening races due to concerns of public health and safety with the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) global pandemic.

The event featured a host of current Formula One drivers, celebrities and other sports stars competing at the virtual Bahrain’s Sakhir circuit, with streams online to YouTube, Twitch and Facebook, along with broadcasts on the UK’s Sky Sports.

Formula One head of digital growth and esports, Julian Tan, told SportsPro the concurrent streams on YouTube, Twitch and Facebook reached 395,000 during the first virtual Grand Prix.

“We had 3.2 million viewers online and on TV we’re estimating 1.2 million, which are very strong figures all around,” Tan said.

“It’s a testament to the deep desire from a general audience to be able to consume some racing entertainment and looking to esports as form of escapism during this difficult time.

“Certainly, our first virtual Grand Prix performed really, really well and was our strongest esports showing since we entered that space,” he said.

The second virtual Grand Prix is set to take place on the virtual Albert Park track, home of the Australia Grand Prix, with current Formula One drivers Charles Leclerc, Alex Albon, George Russell, Lando Norris and Nicholas Latifi set to compete with others from the comfort of their own homes.

As there has been no update on when a return to Formula One racing is likely to happen, Formula One are prepared to continue the Esports Virtual Grand Prix in place of the 2020 on-track events to keep fans, drivers and partners engaged during the Coronavirus outbreak.

The success of the opening event adds further to the success of global sporting organisers turning to esports to fill the gap of live competition and put themselves in a position to survive the forced hiatus.

Joshua Hodson

Joshua Hodson