Formula One is viewed as the pinnacle of motor racing, touring the world, pushing forward driving technology, and entertaining millions of fans. But when Liberty Media took control of Formula One back in January, the focus was on expanding the reach of the sport and growing the fan base. One such way of doing that is through gaming, and so we are getting a virtual world championship.
As Reuters reports, this week Liberty Media launched a new Formula One eSports series. There are two other partners involved: Gfinity, an event and competitions specialist, and Codemasters, who produces the annual release of the Formula One video game.
The goal of this new eSports series is to find and crown a virtual world champion. The competition will consist of three stages: qualification events, live semi-finals, and a three race final. The qualifications will be held at events throughout September using the F1 2017 game launching on Friday.
The 40 quickest drivers will be selected from qualification and invited to the semi-finals, which will be held live at London's Gfinity Arena on October 10-11. Only the top 20 drivers will then progress on to the final. Fittingly, the final will be held on November 24-25 at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. It's the same weekend and circuit where the real Formula One championship will hold its final race this year. So we will see two world champions crowned that weekend.
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Liberty Media hopes that by embracing eSports it can not only increase revenues, but get younger generations interested in real Formula One, not just virtual motor racing. It could also see some new stars of eSports appear to help promote both Formula One and the virtual championship.
How well this virtual world championship does depends on how closely the series is tied to the drivers and teams present in the Formula One paddock. If the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, and Max Verstappen put in regular appearances, and the teams embrace it through branding and promotions, it could prove extremely popular.