Formula 1 has announced the launch of a new F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series following the postponement of the F1 season’s opening race calendar.
This comes after COVID-19 (Coronavirus) forced the 2020 season to be disrupted with the postponement of races in Australia, Bahrain, Vietnam, China, the Netherlands and Spain, along with the cancellation of the Monaco Grand Prix.
The Esports series plans to fill the void of this schedule change with virtual races to run in place of every postponed Grand Prix, with a schedule set to run until at least May depending on the advice of World Health Organisation (WHO) officials.
The gaming series features a number of current F1 drivers lining up on the grid alongside a host of F1 Esports stars, with each driver joining the race remotely on the official F1 2019 PC video game.
The broadcast will be shared on the official Formula 1 YouTube, Twitch and Facebook channels, is expected to run for 1 hour 30 minutes, and have a qualifying period where grid positions will be determined based on the drivers’ fastest lap time.
Formula 1’s head of digital business initiatives and esports, Julian Tan, said this is a great opportunity for F1 to expand even further into the esports world.
“We are very pleased to be able to bring some light relief in the form of the F1 Esports Virtual GP, in these unpredictable times, as we hope to entertain fans missing the regular sporting action,” Tan said.
“With every major sports league in the world unable to compete, it is a great time to highlight the benefits of esports and the incredible skill that’s on show,” he said.
The official F1 2019 PC game which will host the competition is developed by Codemasters and will not provide any official World Championship points over the course of the series.
Codemasters chief executive, Frank Sagnier, said this will be a great chance for fans to get more involved with the F1 Esports competitions.
“With sporting events currently on hold around the world, it’s great that the official F1 video game can help fill the void by bringing together an exciting line-up of talent to race online during the postponed race weekends,” he said.
“It’s going to be competitive, action-packed and a lot of fun for everyone involved,” Sagnier said.
During non-race weekends, Formula 1 have also announced online exhibition races, where fans from around the world will have the chance to go head-to-head with F1 drivers.
The first Virtual Grand Prix took place on March 22, with Renault test driver and Formula 2 star, Guanyu Zhou claiming first place, followed by former F1 driver, Stoffell Vandoorne and Red Bull athlete, Philipp Eng.