The 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix will be long remembered as the race when Charles Leclerc announced his arrival on the F1 world stage. Hardly surprising to see a 21-year-old dominating the column inches of the media as the average age of drivers when the 2019 Formula 1 season begun is the youngest of the modern era - 26 years and three months. With a lower age comes a greater spotlight on a twenty something’s favourite pastime – video games! So, it is hardly surprising to see the greater publicity being given to the third season of the F1 New Balance Esports Series which starts on April 8th.
The first series was a passing interest for many, the 2018 Esports Series obliterated the records from the inaugural season as it reached a record audience of 5.5 million viewers who accessed the competition across a whole host of media platforms. Now, for 2019, the prize fund has doubled to $500,000.
This series is certainly being taken seriously by organisers, competitors and fans alike.
In the same way that Sebastian Vettel was seeking the hat trick in Bahrain, the current champion of the series is on a hat trick as well - Brendon Leigh from Great Britain. Leigh has been the champion of the series at The Pro Draft for two years running and drives for the Mercedes AMG Petrons Esports Team. Leigh's driving style is described as fairly aggressive, and he prefers a bit of understeer in the car. For anyone doubting how seriously competitors take the Eseries, Brendon Leigh lost over 20kg in preparation for the F1 Esports Series in 2018 and he will certainly be motivated to take the title once again. However, as the Esports Series becomes prolific he will now be facing a whole new country of competitors.
For the first time ever there will now be a Chinese championship and in a country of 1.4 billion people this a huge deal. Therefore, it is hardly surprising to read this will be celebrated at the Formula 1 Heineken Chinese Grand Prix 2019 with special virtual races. China is desperate for a Formula 1 racer and this be the stepping stones to such an outcome.
The series is not just about the professional gamers though because there is also a prize on offer for one lucky gamer irrespective of their ability as the F1 esports series website announced:
For the first time ever, one lucky gamer has a chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to the Pro Draft & tickets to the Formula 1 Rolex British Grand Prix on 14 July. To enter, complete one attempt during the three online qualifying events hosted between April and May and ensure you are signed up and registered on www.f1esports.com, with the winner chosen via a random prize draw.
A random prize draw to ascertain the winner is genius marketing - it could be you!
The world of F1 is very pleased with the F1 Esports success:
Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations Formula 1:
“Last season was a decisive year for F1 Esports with the inclusion of the first official teams and record audience figures. As we move into this 2019 season, F1 will remain at the forefront of this explosive industry.''
With the ratings increase in the real world of Formula 1, an argument has been made that the Esports Series had a hand in this success as well.
Garry Cook, Executive Chairman at Gfinity plc, said:
“F1 New Balance Esports Series has captured the imagination of the global gaming community...They want to experience daring manoeuvres on the track. That is why a new and younger audience is embracing the F1 story.''
We all know how many hours of work goes into the simulator in the hope of creating a race winning car so don't be surprised to see many more gamers signed up to put their skill in the virtual world to talent in the real world.
This series is not going away and who knows what is yet to come? Either way, it can only be a positive to the world of F1.