Formula 1 will hold a series of online races featuring current drivers to fill the gap left by postponed events, starting with this weekend’s Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix.
The F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series will see those drivers race remotely on Codemasters’ F1 2019 computer game when the real world event would have been taking place.
It will run until May, with the stipulation that more virtual racing will be added if the coronavirus pandemic causes further calendar disruptions, and alternate venues will be chosen to stand in for Zandvoort and Hanoi due to those tracks not being on last year’s calendar.
Coverage, hosted from the Gfinity Esports Arena (or remotely if necessary), will be available on F1’s YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook channels, and its official website.
“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,” said Julian Tan, F1’s Head of Digital Business Initiatives and Esports.
“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.”
‘A number’ of current F1 drivers and other to-be-announced personalities are slated to participate, while fans will be given the chance to contest exhibition races on non-race weekends, for which further details are to follow.
Virtual grands prix will feature qualifying before the race, with proceedings expected to span around 90 minutes.
Car performance will be equalised, set-ups fixed, vehicle damage reduced, and drivers will have the option of using anti-lock brakes and traction control.
The F1 grands prix which were still to come before their postponement/cancellation are Bahrain (March 20-22), Vietnam (April 3-5), China (April 17-19), The Netherlands (May 1-3), Spain (May 8-10), and Monaco (May 21-24).
The Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix will be half of the real world race distance at 28 laps, with competition commencing on Monday at 07:00 AEDT.