The circuit tower, Bahrain

Formula 1 launches Virtual Grand Prix Series to replace postponed races

Following on from the success of two different virtual racing initiatives last weekend, Formula 1 has now followed suit to launch a Virtual Grand Prix series to keep fans entertained in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

It was announced on Thursday that Monaco would not be a part of the Formula 1 calendar for the first time since 1954, following on from the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix and postponement of the of the Chinese, Bahrain, Vietnam, Spanish and Dutch Grands Prix.

As a result, Formula 1 has teamed up with Codemasters and Gfinity ‘to enable fans to continue watching Formula 1 races virtually’, races commencing with the Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday March 22.

“We’re excited to be a part of the new F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix Series,” commented Frank Sagnier, Chief Executive Officer, Codemasters. “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.”

As yet, the line-up of Formula One drivers and celebrities are unknown, with Lando Norris already signed up to Veloce Esports version, ‘Not the Bahrain GP’ and Max Verstappen starring in The Race’s All-Star Esports Battle. The format, however, is known with the first virtual GP on the Sakhir track being a 50% length race with 28 laps and using the official F1 2019 PC video game, developed by Codemasters.

So that a global audience will be able to tune in and watch the start of F1 and the entertainment world, as well as ERacing professionals, the broadcast ‘will be available on the official Formula 1 YouTube, Twitch and Facebook channels’ and  is expected to run for 1 hour 30 minutes.

“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,” added Julian Tan, Head of Digital Business Initiatives and Esports. “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.”

Although the gaming experience is aimed at making racing as realistic as possible, the Formula 1 press release added that the competitors would have equal car performance with fixed setups and that no official World Championship points up for grabs for the drivers!

Fraser Masefield

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.