Formula 1 Entering Esports Arena With Official Championships To Start In September
Formula 1 announced it is launching an official esport series to "run in conjunction with the on-track world championship," according to Giles Richards of the London GUARDIAN. The series is the first time the sport has entered the esport arena and will be "run in conjunction with the official F1 video game" and esport group Gfinity. The inaugural season, which will run from September-November, "will be open to all-comers" and represents a further move by the Formula One Group to "embrace digital media." The series will be held on the new F1 video game published by Codemasters due for release on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC platforms on Friday. A qualification period will be held in September. From that, "the 40 fastest drivers will attend the semifinals to be held at the Gfinity London Arena in October." The top 20 drivers from the semifinals will reach the finals, a three-race event to be held at F1’s season finale in Abu Dhabi. At this stage, the series "remains largely a marketing exercise for both F1 and the video game" but the Formula One Group will be "more than aware of the possibilities in reaching a new audience that the medium offers as well as the potential financial return in the future" (GUARDIAN, 8/21). MOTORSPORT's Andrew van Leeuwen reported a three-race event will see the first-ever F1 esports world champion crowned on the same weekend as the F1 world champion. F1 Managing Dir, Commercial Operations Sean Bratches said, "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." The 2017 eSport Series champion "will not only secure automatic qualification to the semifinals of the 2018 World Championship," but will also be named the "Formula 1 eSports Champion Expert" for the following year, and be included as a character in the F1 2018 game. According to Codemasters CEO Frank Saigner, the esports concept "will take fan engagement to a new level." Saigner: "Esports is one of the fastest growing sectors of gaming, already attracting audiences in the tens of millions" (MOTORSPORT, 8/21). REUTERS' Alan Baldwin reported several race drivers, including Red Bull's Max Verstappen, "are also active gamers." The Formula E series has "already staged a virtual race between all of its drivers and gamers." The winner in Las Vegas last January was Dutch gamer Bono Huis, who collected a $200,000 jackpot (REUTERS, 8/21).