Formula 1 (F1) was forced to cancel many of its Grand Prix tournaments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has lead to a prolonged inactivity for the auto racing league. In place of the tournaments, the company has announced they are launching the Virtual Prix Series! The competition will begin on March 22nd and will be broadcasted by Gfinity from from its dedicated esports arena in London. A number of current F1 drivers and “a host of stars” that are yet to announced will be compete on the official F1 2019 PC video game.
The game was developed by Codemasters and released in June of 2019. It had it’s first esports tournament that same year and the Virtual Prix Series will be its second. Frank Sagnier, CEO of Codemasters, commented on the new venture, saying, “With sporting events currently on hold around the world, it’s great that the official F1 video game can help fill the void…” The series will be broadcasted on the official Formula 1 YouTube, Twitch and Facebook, as well as F1.com. The Virtual Prix Series will replace all schedules races up until May.
With other motorsports leagues like NASCAR turning to esports in lieu of cancelled events, this move by F1 was inevitable. Game settings will be adapted to suit the variety of gaming skills their drivers possess. The company makes it a point to say “The series is strictly for entertainment purposes…” The goal is to facilitate games that are competitive and fun to watch for fans. Julian Tan, Head of Digital Business Initiatives and Esports for Formula 1, highlighted the opportunity this presents for gaming, saying:
“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. 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.”