Formula 1 launches online racing to replace postponed Grands Prix

By Darren Cassey, PA Motoring Reporter

Formula 1 has launched a Virtual Grand Prix series featuring current drivers to replace the postponed races.

Following the enforced championship shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, esports has seen a surge in popularity.

Starting with this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, each subsequent race weekend will see the postponed real-world race replaced with an online equivalent using the F1 2019 computer game.

The grid will be a mixture of current Formula 1 drivers and ‘a host of stars’ who will be announced ahead of the competition.

They will take part in a 50 per cent length race of 28 laps, with qualifying determining the starting grid. To take into account the different gaming experience of the drivers, all vehicles will have equal performance and the same setup.

Julian Tan, head of digital business initiatives and esports at Formula 1, said: “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.”

Frank Sagnier, CEO of Codemasters, which develops the F1 2019 game, added: “We’re excited to be a part of the new F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix Series. 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.”

The first race will be the Bahrain Grand Prix and will be broadcast from 8pm on Sunday, March 22 on the official Formula 1 YouTube, Facebook and Twitch channels.