The future of finding new talent for Formula 1 teams could lie in esports, according to McLaren, after a boom in sim racing. McLaren have been at the forefront of F1’s dive into esports, having launched the Shadow Project, which tries to find sim racers with potential to drive for real in the future.
Shadow Project evolved out of McLaren’s World’s Fastest Gamer competition, in 2017, won by Rudy van Buren.
Van Buren has gone on to become the official simulator driver for McLaren’s F1 team, and it seems that the simulated world and the real-life on-track action could become more intertwined in the years to come.
“It’s not the first rodeo for gamer to racing driver,” McLaren director of esports Ben Payne told GamesIndustry.biz.
“GT Academy has done that in the past, so it’s happened, but it’s the first time it’s happened under an F1 brand.
“When we launched Shadow Projects in July 2018, it was an iteration of that program from our perspective. We wanted to try and find athletes for our esports team.
“All of our finalists are in really decent nick. You go to a FIFA tournament, and they don’t look like athletes — ours do.
“They are on these sleds racing aggressively, and if they’re doing a six-hour day, the force feedback on some of these wheels is hard and keeping them on the track is hard. It’s not like they’ll break their fingers if they crash, but it is an endurance test.
“If you and I played FIFA for a few hours, we could stop, have a beer and then pick it up again. But our guys are more athletes than in a number of esports spaces. I know the big esports teams have nutritionists and all that, but I think simulation racing is different.”