Formula 1 will run another Virtual Grand Prix series starting at the end of January featuring current and former drivers, this time to raise money for charity.
During the lockdown that hit Europe in March of last year, racing was halted and a number of drivers turned their attentions to Esports, with F1’s official Virtual Grand Prix events featuring half of the grid at various stages. There was no official championship with drivers appearing on an ad-hoc basis, but the aim during this off-season is to reward the participants with charity donations.
Starting on January 31 and running for three consecutive race weekends, the latest Virtual Grand Prix series will see professional F1 Esports Series gamers take part in a five-lap sprint race to decide the starting order for a 50% distance race featuring current and former drivers and celebrities.
Points will be awarded to each team based on their results, with the team’s championship standings then defining how the prize fund is divided to be distributed to their nominated charities.
Last year’s races attracted 30 million viewers and the new championship follows a record-breaking F1 Esports Series that received 11.4m live stream views, something Julian Tan — F1’s head of digital business initiatives and Esports — says bodes well for the sport’s investment in the sector.
“It is fantastic to see the F1 Esports Series 2020 break viewing and engagement records after a brilliant championship where we saw competitive racing and high drama at every event,” Tan said. “We had to adapt in the way we operated for this year’s Pro Series due to the pandemic, but we’re thrilled to see that it didn’t affect viewers’ enjoyment, or consumption, of the action.
“2020 was a tough year for everyone, but we look forward to bringing fans more excitement in 2021, starting with the return of the Virtual Grands Prix as we welcome back some of the faces that made it such a special experience last year, and invite some new ones too, all in the name of charity. Watch this space!”
Last year’s Virtual Grand Prix series saw regular appearances from Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, George Russell, Alex Albon, Antonio Giovinazzi and Nicholas Latifi, while the likes of Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez, Pierre Gasly, Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon also took part.