Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2020

No new F1 drivers enter third Virtual Grand Prix round


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Formula 1 is still struggling to attract current drivers to its Virtual Grand Prix series.

The same six drivers from the 2020 field which joined in the last race will return for this weekend’s Chinese round. However no further drivers from the current field have been signed up.

Charles Leclerc, who won on his debut in the series two weeks ago, will return to take on George Russell, Antonio Giovinazzi, Lando Norris, Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi again.

Other championships, such as IndyCar, NASCAR and Australian Supercars have been able to secure the participation of many of their regular races in their iRacing-based Series. IndyCar filled 31 cars for its race on Michigan Speedway last week, the majority of which were driven by its current racers.

Red Bull has confirmed footballer Thibaut Courtois, a regular Esports racer, will partner Alexander Albon in the race. Max Verstappen, who competed in the iRacing-based Australian Supercars series yesterday, has said he will not participate in Virtual Grand Prix series which runs on the official Formula 1 game.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Albert Park, 2020
Norris explains why real-world drivers prefer iRacing to F1 2019
RaceFans understands Racing Point is working to address logistical obstacles which are preventing Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll from taking part and hope to enter them in future races. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly does not have access to a suitable machine and his team mate Daniil Kvyat, who is not a gaming enthusiast, has asked not to participate in the series.

The starting time for this weekend’s Virtual Grand Prix has been brought forward to 6pm BST. Drivers will compete in a 28-lap race on the virtual Shanghai International Circuit on the same day the Chinese Grand Prix would have taken place.

The race will be shown on F1’s YouTube, Twitch, Facebook and, for the first time, Weibo channels, as well as across F1’s international broadcasters. It will be preceded by exhibition races featuring Esports drivers.

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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...

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    15 comments on “No new F1 drivers enter third Virtual Grand Prix round”

    1. I don’t want to beat a dead horse (I already commented a few time on this)… But with every day passing by, it seems more and more that we won’t have big events resuming before the end of summer (September ?). In fact, you could start to wonder if Bernie and Mosley are not right and that the full 2020 season will be cancelled.

      So still time, but becoming urgent, for F1 to hit the reset button and properly rethink and organize a virtual F1 championship, IMHO.

      Minimum requirements:
      – All drivers present (or very few exception)
      – Proper broadcasting channel and professional commentary (please look at what fox is doing in the US)
      – A bit of fun ? Exploit what the virtual world can offer (use non-F1 tracks etc)

      In my opinion, they should you a more suitable platform to do this, i.e. iRacing. But hey, with a bit of support and improvement from Codemaster, the current platform is probably “good enough” (it kills me a bit to day that, but trying to be objective;-))

      1. It’s all well and good to say “all drivers present” but what a lot of people need to understand is that F1 drivers, just like everyone else, have lives. Some even have families. Some like playing games, others not so much.

        1. F1 drivers, just like everyone else, have lives.

          They also, just like everyone else, have jobs.

          1. petebaldwin (@)
            16th April 2020, 15:32

            They do and no-where in their job contracts does it say you have to play an arcade game once a week.

          2. It’s not clear if all of them even have the option of doing so (e.g. a driver who is in a place with bad internet can’t participate, and many of the older drivers wouldn’t have taken anything as data-intense as online gaming into account when deciding their home broadband). Equipment has also been an issue. F1 2019’s specs don’t suit laptops that don’t have their own graphics card, and non-gamers might not even have that in their desktops. With up to three weeks’ wait in the UK for hardware – before taking into account that not every F1 driver is a tech support genius and the tech companies are telling people not to call unless it’s an emergency…

            Not all teams are convinced this is what their F1 race drivers should be doing. Haas, for example, prefers to send its development drivers in, possibly because it’s closer to the development drivers’ role (remember they’re at a loose end also) than the race drivers’ job. Some F1 drivers like they are in off-season (for example, Pierre Gasly is doing a massive training/diet exercise) which is arguably more relevant to the actual job than a virtual race is (it’s even possible some of that may be written into the contract, meaning Liberty ordering drivers into races could breach those drivers’ contracts). Finally, Liberty actively wants people not in the F1 circle to participate, to broaden its audience. That means some F1 drivers would have to sit out even if they all volunteered.

            In short, there’s very good reasons why Liberty could not reasonably expect to get a virtual series set up in the manner proposed.

        2. Hi Glenn,

          I know I’m probably a bit simplifying stuff… But in theory at this stage they should be travelling all around the world going from 1 GP to the other, with some PR meeting and a bit of factory visit in between. So investing a few hours per day to train on a “simulator” from home and participating to a 1-2 h event, still from home during the WE, seems very reasonable to me, in fact almost holidays compared to normal times. After all most of them if not all got payed for the season (even with a few salary cuts).

          As for the equipment required… All you need is mid class gaming-computer (1,5 k€), a logitec G29 (250€), a table and a chair. 5 days delay via amazon ? (of course, you might want to go for the full blown sim rigs costing 50k€, but that’s not necessary).

          Timmy Hill won the 2nd Nascar iRacing race with that simple rig.

          1. @HAL In the UK, that would take at least 21 days to deliver (I’ve just had to wait that long for a headset).

    2. iRacing has the McLaren Honda MP4-30. It is a bit outdated these days though, but if the ones responsible for F1 really wanted to get (most of) the drivers racing on-line, they could ask iRacing to make a 2020 car and finance it.

      And if so, I would guess that they could get a great F1 car that the real drivers would wanna race on-line quite fast. But as they sold the rights to Codemaster. (which now seems to come back and bite them), and they probably can’t force the F1 drivers that don’t want to play an arcade game to do it, I guess that 6 F1 drivers in each race is as good as it gonna get.

      But we can watch Indycar racing with an almost full field on a real simulation. instead. The racing is great and so are the production too btw.

      1. The Indycar races have been good and entertaining. Its unfortunate F1 isnt doing as good of a job with this. This type of series maybe the closest we ever get to comparing drivers “in the same machinery.”

        1. the teams will spend their budgets on hackers that can give them cheat codes and mods.

    3. Poor old Gasly must be on his beam ends if he can’t afford a Playstation.

      1. @mrfill He’s stuck in Dubai, per his Q&A earlier this week. While he definitely has some sort of computer, there’s not much point importing stuff in as he’s only planning to stay until borders are raised and it’s safe for him to go home. And if he’s missing something needed to join in (even if it’s as simple as finding driving with a keyboard unergonomic, because I’m not sure if he has any sort of controller with him…)

    4. I wonder more about 2020 based motorsport seasons (even 2021 if WHO predictions about Covid-19 are correct).

      Something I have thought for a few weeks (and becoming more suitable in my mind) is a form of 2020-2021 super season, not just for Formula 1 but other categories too.

      Using Formula 1 as an example, running the 22 races of 2020 over 2 calendar years allows more spacing of events and to retain all the events that would have made up the 2020 season. This also keeps costs down and keeping it fair in the sense that all events lose 1 race. Logistically this will allow tracks that host multiple races to fit everything in too…and for Japan having to host the Olympics too next year.

      Not as easy as my mind thinks probably, but still seems a valid solution.

      1. @Pete Unfortunately that also loses Liberty an entire year of revenue. This means teams having half the income with what will definitely be more than half the expenses.

    5. I mean, if you like to see constant crashing with no damage, constant corner cutting, and people doing unrealistic things like dive bomb knock-out inside moves then this is for you!

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