With the world of motorsports taking several major blows already, F1 has decided to fight back by hosting the F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix to provide fans with a new form of entertainment.
F1 Shifts Focus on Esports Races After Azerbaijan Grand Prix Gets Postponed
With COVID-19 taking a toll on the global sports market, an increasing number of sports organizations have turned to video games as a viable alternative. Spain’s La Liga has already broadcast some matches played in FIFA 20, the esports game that has been enjoying solid popularity even without a global pandemic forcing us to panic-buy all essential goods.
Recently, Sevilla defender Sergio Reguilon and Real Betis striker Borja Iglesias hosted a virtual match that was watched by 62,000 on the Twitch channel. This has prompted Ibai Llanos, a Spanish esports commentator to host a charity stream collecting participants from every football club in La Liga, posting a final list of 18-odd participants.
Yet, this is only one of the examples how video games are filling the void. F1 has taken things a little more seriously in hosting a full-blown virtual competition which will replace popular races from the official circuit.
With the Azerbaijan Grand Prix postponed, the F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix, which launched on March 22, is now underway. The first of the events was Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix, a homage to the actual motorsports event.
Some teams, including McLaren haven proven more prepared than others who have taken video games less seriously. The F1 Esports Grand Prix is now run on the official F1 2019 PC video game.
F1 Drivers Join the Digital Race Amid COVID-19 Outbreak
While you might have thought that drivers would not be up for it, many have actually tried to qualify against players. In the meantime, the F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix will run through May, but the possibility exists to extend the virtual races if actual racing hasn’t returned to normal due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Commenting on these developments, F1 head of esports, Julian Tan, had the following to say:
“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.”
Baku City Circuit officials have agreed to postpone the event after negotiating with F1 executives and specifically the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile and the Government of the Azerbaijan Republic.
In their official statement, The Baku City Circuit reiterated the evident reason behind the decision, citing the spread of the COVID-19 illness as the reason why the event had been cancelled. More races have been cancelled elsewhere, of course, with Monaca, Vietnam, China, Dutch, Spain and other countries failing to host a race on time.
The next event on the Circuit is the Canadian Grand Prix, but there is no guarantee that the event will go through on June 14.
F1 Esports has done pretty well, attracting a good deal of interest, players, and drivers. While esports won’t become the new norm, it would certainly gain some popularity and help fans get access to more motorsports action.