Formula One launched an official eSports series on Monday, with the first virtual world champion to be crowned at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The new eSports series will be run in conjunction with games developer, Codemasters and eSports experts Gfinity.
It will launch next month at the same time as the new F1 2017 game for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, with qualification events running throughout September.
The quickest 40 will then go through to the live semi-finals to be held at Gfinity Arena in London from October 10-11, before 20 progress to the finals in Abu Dhabi at the end of November.
The winner of the eSports series will automatically qualify for next year’s semi-finals. In addition, he or she will be included as a character in the F1 2018 game, and will named the ‘Formula 1 eSports Champion Expert’ for the following year.
“This launch presents an amazing opportunity for our business: strategically and in the way we engage fans,” said Formula One commercial operations managing director, Sean Bratches.
“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 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.”
Codemasters CEO Frank Saigner added; “eSports is one of the fastest growing sectors of gaming already attracting audiences in the tens of millions.
“We are delighted to be announcing this incredible racing series with Formula One for our upcoming F1 2017 game. The highly competitive nature and high-speed spectacle of the sport combined with the authenticity of our game will provide a thrilling experience for players and viewers across the world. We look forward to engaging more deeply with our loyal and passionate community, and to bring new fans to both our game and the sport itself.”
eSports is a growing area and back in May, McLaren launched its ‘World’s Fastest Gamer’ programme to discover its next F1 simulator driver, while Formula E staged a live virtual race in January in Las Vegas, with drivers and gamers all competing against one another. The winner, Dutch virtual racer Bono Huis, scooped a $200,000 prize. The Nissan GT Academy Programme, which has turned a number of gamers into GT drivers, has also been running now for some years.
Picture credit: Formula E