The motorsport show goes on as drivers give back to the fans on ESport Sunday

As tens of thousands of attending Formula One fans and countless millions of potential viewers awoke to the shock of the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix, it remains to be seen just when the season is set to resume.

Of course, it wasn’t just the fans of the sport who are left in limbo due to the, as yet, unknown future of motorsport events this year. Team personnel, and particularly drivers, were as excited as ever to get a new season up and running before the global Coronavirus pandemic halted them in their tracks.

Some drivers, however, were not going to take a weekend of no racing lying down. And, aided by initiatives by new motorsport online portal ‘The Race’ and ‘Veloce Esports’, two separate online racing events featuring both stars of the track and dedicated Esport racers were all arranged within 72 hours of the cancellation.

The Race event, branded ‘The Race – All-Star Esport Battle’, featured none other than Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, who was joined by the likes of DS TECHEETAH Formula E championship leader Antonio Felix da Costa, Maximillian Guenther, former F1 and IndyCar star driver Juan Pablo Montoya and Indy500 champion Simon Pagenaud to name but a few.

“We got wind that Australia wouldn’t be going on. We guessed that the IndyCar race might be canned, and we already knew that the Formula E races were done,” Darren Cox, CEO of Torque Esports is quoted on The Race.

“We started on Thursday morning to put together a plan. In 48 hours we’ve turned around what was nothing into something that looks like one of the races of the year. We thought some of the real drivers would fancy a go but the reaction has been absolutely massive. It’s snowballed really.”

Streamed live on The Race’s YouTube channel, over 50,000 fans logged in to watch events unfold and see how the drivers compared to the real experts of this particular type of racing. Three qualifying races decided the list of finalists at the famous Nurburgring circuit, with Verstappen winning the opening race from pole.

But it was not to be the Dutchman’s day come the grand finale, Esport racer and winner of the 2019 Formula Sim Racing world championship Jernej Simoncic came away with the £4k winner’s cheque, as Verstappen was involved in an opening lap collision that punted him from 9th on the grid to 19th before he valiantly fought back to tenth.

Like Verstappen, Lando Norris also possesses his own simulator with which to practice. And, racing in the ‘Not the Aus GP’ Esports event later in the day against the likes of Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne, Mercedes EQ Team FE driver Stoffel Vandoorne, Esteban Guitterez and Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, the McLaren driver stormed through the field from 19th on the grid before realising he was on the formation lap and breaking into his customary giggles!

When it came to the race proper, Norris did come out on top of the recognised race drivers and celebrities, finishing sixth with Gutierrez 10th and Courtois an impressive 11th.

With the race calendar still very much up in the air, plans are already afoot to keep the thousands of online viewers entertained in the weeks to come, meaning race drivers are staying Cyber Fit despite not being able to go through the rigours of a live race weekend.

In this ever-evolving digital world, it is becoming more and more apparent that teams are turning to companies such as Acronis for cyber protection and data storage, the two competing DS TECHEETAH team drivers, as well as Williams Racing, Racing Point, NIO 333 FE Team and the Venturi FE team are using the company to enhance performance across the board.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.