Esports wants to see ‘few more’ drivers on grid

Date published: April 3 2020 - Michelle Foster

Lando Norris gets the same buzz from sim racing as he does with real racing.

When F1 announced the Bahrain Virtual Grand Prix it was thought that it would include the full 2020 grid. It didn’t.

Only Lando Norris and Nicholas Latifi lined up for their respective teams, McLaren and Williams, although all 10 teams did feature but with guest drivers.

This weekend’s Australian race will include three more of the current drivers with George Russell joining his team-mate on the grid while Charles Leclerc will race for Ferrari with Alex Albon taking up his Red Bull seat.

But that’s just five of the 20.

Max Verstappen has already made it clear he’s not interested, preferring to compete in the ‘Real Racers Never Quit by Team Redline’ series, while Franz Tost says neither of his AlphaTauri drivers wants to take part.

And with the drivers scattered around the globe as they sit in lockdown waiting for the F1 season to begin, Julian Tan, head of digital business initiatives and esports at Formula 1, admits timezones and a lack of sim equipment are also keeping some of them out of the game.

He told Sportbusiness: “As it relates to driver participation, the timelines are very tight.

“The drivers are based all over the world [causing connection problems to the server that hosts the race] and some of them don’t have racing simulator equipment, so we will do the best we can in the circumstances.

“We’re hopeful that for the next few Virtual Grands Prix, we’ll see a few more of their faces on the grid.”

While Tan concedes it would be huge if all 20 did take part, he also understands that away from racing many drivers want to switch off.

“I think this is quite challenging to navigate,” he added. “As a professional athlete, the job first and foremost is to perform on the track.

“Some of them, like Lando [Norris], really enjoy sim racing. Others, when they’re not racing, they want to do something else.

“All of us understand the opportunity we have here, but you just have to do what makes strategic sense within your capabilities.”

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