Formula One has announced the launch of its eSports series to run from September to November. The series is formed with a tri-partite partnership between the F1, game developer Codemasters and events and competitions experts Gfinity.
The first virtual F1 world champion will be crowned at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, grandprix247 has reported.
“This launch presents an amazing opportunity for our business: strategically and in the way we engage fans. First, it’s a growing category with tremendous fan engagement that we’re entering in a big way; and we are proud to have Codemasters and Gfinity joining us on this ride,” Formula One managing director Sean Bratches said in a statement.
“Of course as we do in Formula 1, we’ll continue to evolve and innovate in the way we run this virtual counterpart to the F1 Championship to ensure we provide the most exciting and enjoyable experience we can for our fans,” added Bratches.
The series will start with qualification events through September to determine the 40 quickest virtual drivers. It F1 e-series can run on PlayStation4, Xbox One and Windows PC platforms. The live semi-finals are slated for October 10-11at London’s Gfinity Arena. The top 20 qualify for the three-race finals on November 24 and 25 at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit.
The first virtual world champion, to be crowned at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, will secure a direct berth in next year’s semi-finals.
“Formula 1 entering eSports is a powerful endorsement to how vital it is for cutting edge organisations to consider eSports in their digital offering in order to reach the elusive and lucrative millennial fan base,” says Gfinity CEO Neville Upton. “Gfinity has developed a unique and proprietary technical platform, which coupled with our in depth experience enables us to deliver a world-class turnkey solution for our global partners. We’re very much looking forward to working with Formula 1 on this exciting project.”
US-based Liberty Media, who took over Formula One in January, have targeted gaming as a growth area to drive revenues and connect with younger audiences.
Some of Formula One’s participants are already embracing the world of eSports, with McLaren executive director Zak Brown saying all teams could eventually have their own virtual counterpart.
McLaren, going through tough times but still the second most successful team in terms of race wins, has launched a “World’s Fastest Gamer” initiative in May to recruit a simulator driver from virtual racing. Several race drivers, including Red Bull’s Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, are also active gamers.