Back in 2017, Formula One inaugurated the F1 eSports programme where gamers compete with one another on the official Formula 1 video game. This programme has helped provide a new avenue for greater engagement with the sport. Over the past few years, there has been a distinct rise in the popularity of eSports and virtual gaming, and now, Formula One is capitalising on it.
The first F1 Esports Series was announced on 21 August 2017, with over 60,000 gamers participated in the inaugural series. The championship was also viewed in nearly 123 countries around the world, generating over 20 million impressions. That year, Briton Brendon Leigh was crowned as the first champion of the series.
A year later, the sport underwent it first full season in esports and split into 2 stages. The opening stage kicked off in April 2018, and the winners were offered an opportunity to earn a place on the official esports driver line-up for one the official F1 teams.
At least 9 of the 10 Formula One teams offered positions in their esports driver line ups as part of the series inaugural Pro Draft. Eager to join a top-notch Formula One team, around 66,000 gamers participated in the 2018 F1 Esports Series powered by New Balance. As an added bonus, there was also a chance to win a share of the $200,000 prize fund.
That year, Mercedes clinched the 2018 F1 eSports Team Championship and Brendon Leigh became two-time Driver Champion.
Finally, in 2019, Formula 1 announced the third instalment of the F1 Esports Series. However, this time, the prize fund was increased to a mouth-watering $500,000. This time, Leigh was unable to take a hat-trick of titles, and Red Bull was the winning constructor.
The 2019 F1 eSports series was won by David Tonizza, driving for Ferrari Driver Academy, with Red Bull Racing Esports taking the Constructors’ Trophy. Every year, the gamers use that year’s edition of the Formula One game. So, in 2020, the upcoming F1 2020 game will be in use.
Ahead of each season, there is a call for gamers from around the world to participate. With regard to who can enter, it is pretty much a free-for-all, with the only caveat being that the participant must own a copy of the official Formula 1 video game.
Once the qualifiers end and the participants are whittled down, the remaining gamers enter the Pro Draft. From that point onwards, all the participating Formula 1 teams take over and select some lucky drivers to wear their badge in the F1 Esports Pro Series championships.
Admittedly, each race only lasts as long as a quarter of the race distance as the real teams. Being such a massive event, it should be fairly obvious that each race will be broadcast live.
The chosen drivers have a chance to earn points for the F1 eSports Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships. In addition to being chosen to represent their respective teams, the winners will also be gifted a portion of the prize fund distributed to the teams based on final standings.