Formula One, the world’s elite motorsport series, has partnered with esports specialist Gfinity and video game developer Codemasters to launch its first ever esports series.
The inaugural competition will begin in September to coincide with the launch of the F1 2017 video game, and will run until November, when the championship’s first virtual world champion will be crowned at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The esports series will be held in three stages, beginning with qualification events throughout September to determine the 40 quickest virtual drivers. Semi-finals will then be held at London’s Gfinity Arena in October, with the top 20 competitors progressing to a three-race final at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit between 24th and 25th November.
Liberty Media, the company which took over Formula One in January, has targeted gaming as an area to drive revenues and connect with younger audiences. Some of the championship’s teams have already entered the realm of esports, including McLaren, who launched a ‘World's Fastest Gamer’ initiative earlier this year to recruit a simulator driver from virtual racing.
“This launch presents an amazing opportunity for our business: strategically and in the way we engage fans,” said Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director. “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.
“Of course, as we do in Formula One, we’ll continue to evolve and innovate in the way we run this virtual counterpart to the Formula One Championship to ensure we provide the most exciting and enjoyable experience we can for our fans.”