F1 drivers to compete in ‘Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix’ in new official ESports series

2020 F1 season

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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 race drivers who will participate are yet to be confirmed. They are expected to be joined by a mixture of reserve drivers from rival teams and top ESports drivers, all of which will participate remotely for safety reasons.

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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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 39 comments on “F1 drivers to compete in ‘Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix’ in new official ESports series”

    1. Equal car performance.. Sweet..
      Now we can really see who’s faster.. Lewis or Max..

      Kidding.. But I do hope there is a camera at the remote locations wherever the drivers are racing from.. It will be interesting to see their expressions (we rarely get to see any with the helmet and all safety gear).

      1. Do you think Lewis will participate?

        1. Lewis is in Grand Turismo. I hope that doesn’t prevent him participating.
          I don’t like assists in game… that i weak, only superlicenced players, not pro simdrivers. and add the incentive to make it ‘serious’ competition. 50k for a charity…

        2. Do you think Lewis will participate?

          Unlikely – he has a sponsorship deal with Gran Turismo.

        3. Of course he won’t do it. He was to good to even show up to a F1 fan festival that every driver but him managed to make it 2

          1. @racerdude7730
            Imagine seething with Lewis hate so badly you can’t even finish your sentence!

      2. I think we’ll find that the fastest will be the people whose full time job it is to be fast on these games

        1. So Verstappen

          1. @rethla Verstappen was whipped last weekend by numerous people who’s actual full time job it is to play games.

            1. Lol…even the bashing on virtual races continues…FYI he won race s and has been crashed into…virtually, a bit like F1 ;-)

            2. @Matn Are we watching the same event? Max only won in first race where it was all real drivers race. So in essence he only won against amateurs inside the game. Compared to people from second race (celebrity e-sports players who not necessarily play iRacing 2 as their main game) and third race (best gamer in iRacing2 community that other to qualify for the event), Max is relatively slow. Yeah he got hit in first lap, but even his qualy time in his first race is far behind the hardcore gamers and his race pace also slower. What Hugh and RB13 said is true.

            3. I think he won the first race then started as sixth and there he was torpedoed in the first corner. Still from 21th place he came back to 10th.

              But i would rate Max and Lando very high as they race daily on simulators and that helps.

            4. Yeah and in the second he got into start issues dropping back, but fighting back…
              In the more recent virtual IRacing race with ao. Norris, Stoffel Vandoorne, Antonio Felix da Costa, Richard Verschoor he won and later got crashed out from leading position.

              It’s not worth the debate really… in the virtual racing world hardly any other drivers than Verstappen and Norris matter out of the real drivers, they can compete with professional sim racers

            5. Max actually won one of the iRace races that was packed with pro sim drivers (starting from P2; racing F3 cars on Daytona) on Sunday. He fought to back to P10 after being pushed off by Norris in leading position (racing Porsches on Daytona) in the race before. So, he’s no slouch. I liked watching it because you can see a bit clearer how they position themselves to either fend off or prepare an attack. Anyway, as Matn says, it seems that of the current F1 grid only Norris and Max are spending proper time on it.

          2. Verstappen’s incredible quick, especially on iRacing, but he doesn’t do the F1 games that much afaik, and they’re a lot more arcade-y than iRacing. Lando’s in the same boat and in Veloce’s race last weekend he was comfortably beaten by the F1 eSports drivers, so yeah. If it was on iRacing I’d say that they’d be in with a shot but the F1 game is so different.

            1. @sonicslv .. first he won the second race in Daytona with F3 cars (so not the first like you mentioned) and he made an awesome move in the last busstop chicane to win that race! He won against Max Benecke who is one of the best simracers around. In the first race he was leading the race but was pushed out by Lando and crashed. Still he fought back to top 10 that race!
              Max will not race on Sunday but on Saturday in “the race all-star esports battle” . He drives for simrace team Redline and only drives on platforms Iracing and rfactor 2 and not on F1 2019!

    2. 8pm GMT. What day-Sunday?

      1. @sterling Yes it will be on Sunday, basically replacing the GP.

    3. Did I miss the day when it will occur?

    4. Bit of fun why not.

    5. Mark McCubbin
      20th March 2020, 11:02

      I was hoping this would happen. Hopefully Crofty and Brundle will be commentating. And it would be great to get a few of the ex F1 drivers involved as well – Damon, Herbert, Button, Coulthard, Barrichello, Montoya…

      Just make it a massive grid of 40+ cars – it would be carnage, but a great to watch!

      1. No, just no! Let’s not have dinosaurs commentating on essentially a game! It’ll just be an old man whine fest!

        1. Good commentary is almost half of what makes a good race, IMO. It’s fun to moan about our differences of opinion with the big commentators or groan about their style, but the reality is that the way they keep a running narrative and give voice to the drama is an exceptional skill and GPs wouldn’t be the same without them.

          We saw that with the Not the Aus GP – the young lads commentating made a respectable effort but they really seemed still to be finding their voice. It was hard to get into the action (they also weren’t helped by the “race direction” – I don’t know how much control Codemasters give them to cut together a good broadcast though) and I hope they can get some heavy hitters in for the official version. Doesn’t have to be Brundle but a couple of experienced pros at the helm would have a big impact on the show.

        2. @eurobrun – I vote for Murray Walker :)

      2. Barichello and his son are both into sim racing I believe!

      3. Montoya will race on saturday just like a lot of indycar drivers and Max Verstappen and Rosenqvist , Hulkenberg and many DTM drivers in “ The Race All-star esports Battle” .. i believe it is on Iracing. They will not race on Sunday!

    6. Ha! Brilliant! I was only half joking when I made the suggestion here last week!

    7. Award full points!

    8. Really ? So this years Wdc will be some pre-teen who will be paid in pizza and ice cream ? So all you fans out there who have paid your annual viewing fee, are you going to be happy with this ? All you sponsors of teams and TV coverage, is this worth what you paid ? What a farce.

        1. you mean “Oh deer”

          1. @alfa145 I don’t get it.

            1. @neiana https://youtu.be/VaU6pqhwur4

              In regards to the article I think it’s a good idea. At worst it’s harmless fun, at best we’ll have an entertaining race.

            2. @neiana it’s a reference to a very famous radio exchange between Montoya and his engineer back in the early 2000’s, so that when saying “Oh dear” on an F1-related context you are automatically called out with “Oh deer”. There was a deer on track. Oh, dear.

            3. @alfa145 thanks! I get it now.

    9. Formula 1 has agreed to reduce the difficulty settings for some drivers based on their ability levels

      This could be Lance Stroll’s chance. Expect an announcement soon about Lawrence Stroll making a large investment on Codemasters.

    10. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      20th March 2020, 14:41

      So long as it means nothing (not getting championship points), i don’t mind this and can understand why it is better than not racing at all. But it isn’t reality, so it is very unrepresentative of the drivers realistic ability. Glad they won’t make a championship out of this!

    11. Well this is great, game on!

    Comments are closed.