With Formula 1 races off for the time being due to health concerns, the action has gone digital with an official Virtual Grand Prix Series played out in F1 2019. Current and former real Formula 1 drivers including Lando Norris and Johnny Herbert are running in the shadow along with F1 esports folks and a sprinkling of other celebrities like Olympic cycling champion Chris Hoy. The first race was this weekend, a virtual Bahrain Grand Prix substituting for the real deal, and more will follow along the regular season schedule until races resume. Here, come, you can watch the archive of the weekend's race.
They're running half-length races, and have made a few tweaks so it's not super serious racing.
"Due to the wide variety of gaming skill levels amongst the drivers, game settings will be configured in such a way to encourage competitive and entertaining racing," Codemasters explained. "This includes running equal car performance with fixed setups, reduced vehicle damage, and optional anti-lock brakes and traction control for those less familiar with the game."
And no, of course the Virtual Grind Prix does not give points for the actual F1 championship. You can see the list of drivers over here.
They organisers had said they planned to keep the Virtual Grand Prix going until at least the end of May, and longer if more races are called off due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Shortly after the weekend's digirace, June's Azerbaijan Grand Prix was also postponed so yep probably expect more of it.
F1 races run on alternate weekends. The virtuaplan also includes hold online exhibition races on non-race weekends, where players will get the chance to race against real F1 drivers.
As well as YouTube and Twitch, they're broadcasting the Virtual Grand Prix on various international sports channels, which in the UK is Sky Sports F1, Sky Sports Main Event, and Sky Sports Mix.
"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," Julian Tan, F1's head of digital business initiatives and esports said n the announcement. "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."
Chain, keep us together.