Formula 1 is going virtual in a way it hasn’t previously, with an official F1 eSports competition launched today for competitors using Codemasters’ F1 2017 game (launches on Friday, August 25).
The eSports series will run from September to November, with the first F1 virtual world champion to be crowned the Monday after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Per the official f1esports.com site, which launched today, qualifying will take place Sept. 4 at the Monza and Suzuka circuits before the semifinal occurs on Sept. 10, and will see 40 drivers race from the Gfinity esports arena in London to cut the field to 20. The two-day final occurs in Abu Dhabi in November.
Users of the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC (steam) platforms are eligible to enter.
This new series represents “an amazing opportunity for our business: strategically and in the way we engage fans,” said Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations of F1, via Reuters.
The esports arena has recently emerged in racing with competitions such as McLaren’s The World’s Fastest Gamer sim racing program, CJ Wilson Racing’s 570 Challenge (with McLaren; team also held a Cayman Cup challenge in 2016) and Formula E’s eraces, which are often part of an ePrix weekend. Formula E held a standalone erace in Las Vegas earlier this year.
Still, this marks a big step for F1 to formally sign off with it in this partnership with Codemasters and Gfinity.
Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.
Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.
Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.
“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.
“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”
Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.
“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.
“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”