Celebrities still welcome in Esports events

Date published: April 4 2020

Celebrities still welcome in F1 Virtual races.

Formula 1 still wants guest celebrities to take part in their Esports races, despite efforts to increase the number of drivers taking part.

The second Formula 1 Virtual Grand Prix event will take place on Sunday as competitors race around Albert Park, home of the Australian Grand Prix.

This time around there will be a slightly better turnout on the two current drivers who took part in the first event ‘in Bahrain’, but still only six current drivers, including Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc and George Russell have been confirmed for the event.

Stars of Formula 1’s past Johnny Herbert and Jenson Button are scheduled to take part.

Even though Formula 1 wants to increase the number of current drivers taking part, big name celebrities are still very much welcome – England cricketer Ben Stokes has been drafted in for the Bahrain race.

Speaking to The Race, F1’s head of digital business initiatives and esports Julian Tan said: “I think in terms of participation more generally – and this is really the beauty of having esports – we have the flexibility to kind of change formats.

“So for example, this weekend we’ll be organising a first F1 Esports pro exhibition race that will take place after the virtual grand prix, that will feature the teams’ esports drivers.

“So we’re able to kind of flex and scale our product. If for example, if we were to have close to a full grid of F1 drivers, there’s a lot of demand of seeing celebrities participate, there are different ways that you can really integrate that.

“Obviously it’d be fantastic to have as many F1 drivers participate as possible because from a fan’s perspective, they would love to see their heroes, even if it’s on a video game.

“And I think more generally in terms of wider stars, sports stars, other athletes that kind of operate in this field, as well as kind of bigger pop stars as well, for us we’re keen in terms of using this as an opportunity as well to cross-pollinate industries and get the sports and entertainment world working together.”

Tan said that F1 had a “very short lead time” to piece together the first Virtual GP in Bahrain, so even though only Lando Norris and Nicholas Latifi from the current F1 grid took part, expectations “weren’t very high” for driver participation anyway.

“But we were obviously going to try and know in terms of how we were building out the grids – F1 drivers, current drivers, bigger sports stars,” Tan added.

Pop star Liam Payne signed in for the Bahrain race, and Tan spoke of how “fun” it was to have him onboard.

“When we had Liam Payne participate, that was such a fun crossover there,” he said.

“It is a great opportunity. It’s a new product and it affords us that flexibility to kind of test different things and kind of take those learnings to optimise as we go along.”

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