F1 to launch own virtual Grands Prix substitutes

Following the success of Veleoce eSports “Not the Aus GP” last weekend, Formula 1 have announced they will follow suit with virtual Grands Prix to replace those postponed by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Across all broadcasts, last weekends “Not the Aus GP” had over 100,000 concurrent viewers and was competed by the likes of Lando Norris, Stoffel Vandoorne, Esteban Gutierrez and a whole host of F1 eSports drivers and content creators. The event was setup for F1 fans missing out on the real deal following the last minute cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix.

In a press release, F1 have announced the races will “run in place of every postponed Grand Prix” with the first event starting this Sunday at the virtual Sakhir circuit.

The races will be competed remotely by a host of current drivers and stars on the official F1 2019 title on PC. A full list of competitors will be announced in due course.

Races will be 50% race distance with a qualifying session beforehand so viewers can expect the event to last in the region of 90 minutes.

It has also been clarified that the series is for entertainment purposes only with no official championship points being awarded. I imagine the bragging rights will be enough for some when we return to the paddock…

On non-race weekends, F1 will also be hosting a series of exhibition races accessible to fans who will be able to compete against F1 drivers on the game. More details on this are said to be released on official F1 social media channels soon.

With the series expected to run up until May, we will unfortunately not be able to see both Vietnam and Zandvort virtual Grands Prix. Instead, the new tracks will be replaced by alternative tracks available from last years calendar. If the pandemic still ravages the globe post May, the series will be extended as necessary.

One of the few eSports that can offer a decent facsimile of its real-life counterpart, F1’s head of digital business and eSports Julian Tan said he was excited by the opportunity to expose new audiences to the virtual racing scene.

“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. 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.”

The news comes as sim-racing continues to demonstrate it’s value in the modern day sport. The racing may not be real, but the drivers behind it are, and the emotions are no different to the real deal. With the whole sporting world greatly affected by the Coronavirus outbreak, F1 leads the way to offer fans some respite.

The virtual Bahrain Grand Prix will take place this Sunday at 8pm GMT. The event will be broadcast on the official F1 YouTube, Twitch and Facebook pages.