Formula 1 goes virtual with new series to replace postponed races

23rd March 2020 10:43 am GMT

Premier motor racing competition Formula 1 has launched a new F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix Series to replace races postponed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Featuring a number of current Formula 1 drivers and celebrities including Lando Norris, Esteban Gutierrez, Sir Chris Hoy and One Direction’s Liam Payne, the series has been created to enable fans to watch virtual F1 races during the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The series kicked off with the Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, with the 14 lap race of the Sakhir circuit won by Formula 2 driver Guanyu Zhou.

“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,” said F1 head of digital business initiative and eSports Julian Tan. “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 virtual races, which are strictly for entertainment purposes, see drivers compete in the official Formula 1 2019 game by Codemasters using identical rigs and car setup. The races run in place of every postponed Grand Prix and will be broadcast live from the Gfinity Esports Arena on F1’s official YouTube, Twitch and Facebook channels, as well as F1.com.

“We’re excited to be a part of the new F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix Series,” said Codemasters CEO Frank Sagnier. “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. It’s going to be competitive, action-packed, and a lot of fun for everyone involved.”

Gfinity CEO John Clarke added: “Gfinity is proud to be playing its part in the design and delivery of the F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series, which will bring exciting virtual racing to a legion of Formula 1 and Esports fans around the globe.”

During non-race weekends, Formula 1 will also be hosting online exhibition races, where fans from around the world will be given the chance to go head-to-head with F1 drivers.

The F1 Esports Virtual GP initiative will be extended beyond May if the coronavirus pandemic results in further Grand Prix cancellations or postponements.

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