Formula 1 drivers will compete in an official Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix, the first of a new series of ESports events to run in place of cancelled 2020 race dates.
The competition, which will take place on the official Formula 1 game F1 2019, will begin with a qualifying period to decide grid positions. The race around the Bahrain International Circuit will be run to half-distance, which is 28 laps.
The event will begin at 8pm GMT on Sunday and is expected to last around an hour and a half. No world championship points will be offered for the race.
Formula 1 has agreed to reduce the difficulty settings for some drivers based on their ability levels “to encourage competitive and entertaining racing”. This will involve “running equal car performance with fixed set-ups, reduced vehicle damage, and optional anti-lock brakes and traction control for those less familiar with the game.”
Fans will be able to watch the event live on Formula 1’s YouTube, Twitch and Facebook channels. F1 intends to broadcast the event from the Gfinity ESports Arena, but will do handle this remotely if necessary.
Further events will be held to take the place of suspended races, which at present include the Vietnam, Chinese, Dutch, Spanish and Monaco grands prix. For the two circuits not featured in F1 2019 – Hanoi and Zandvoort – alternative tracks will be used instead. The F1 ESports Virtual GP series will be extended if there is further disruption to the F1 calendar beyond the end of May.
“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’s head of digital business 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.”
Other championships have already announced similar steps to replace races which have been called off, including NASCAR.
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