Formula One has shown great innovation by implementing the Virtual GPs on race weekends of postponed real-world races. However, despite record viewing figures, the races are still not anywhere near as enjoyable as the practice sessions are. For that experience, a viewer needs to turn their attention to Twitch, a streaming site championed by Lando Norris and now taking the interest of many other members of the 2020 Formula 1 grid.
Dr Julian Tan, Head of Formula 1 Esports, is rightly proud of the success which two official F1 virtual Grand Prix have brought Liberty Media - as his recent tweets show:
“476k peak concurrent views for our #F1Esports Vietnam #VirtualGP, smashing our Bahrain numbers just 2 weeks ago. What a fun race it was. Congrats to @Charles_Leclerc! He picked up the game just 8 days ago and took the win on his esports debut. Pure talent. And to @GeorgeRussell63, congrats on your maiden podium ;) More to come. Next stop China. Stay safe everyone. #RaceAtHome”
So then, what now?
Well, if not yet done so, I strongly suggest installing the free APP ‘Twitch’ and follow: iamcharlesleclerc16; Nicholas_Latifi; GR63 and landonorris
Social Media can be a curse as much as a gift but what it always allows is unfiltered content and comments from the source. Twitch streams (featuring many equally unfiltered expletives) show our F1 heroes in their most accessible and relatable form yet. Lando Norris aka ‘Mr Social Media is my life’ has streamed thousands of hours of his virtual racing encounters through Twitch. Last week, Nicholas Latifi, Charles Leclerc and George Russell joined him in creating their own accounts and beaming out their online battles (and commentary) to their thousands of fans the world over who find themselves stuck indoors seeking escapism.
George Russell is spending the lockdown period at the home of his parents and races on his new sim rig in his old bedroom showcasing his childhood and a school photo proudly on display of Russell in uniform.
Charles Leclerc, having won the Virtual Vietnam GP (by navigating the Albert Park Circuit) closed his victorious Virtual GP streaming session with the intention of signing off with some graphics of him and Ferrari…but not all went to plan:
‘I press end stream, 3’2’1’, (laughter) I don’t even know if I’m still live or not. It’s lagging it’s not me.’
For the many thousands watching, they enjoyed the fact that Leclerc had not signed off and now was just talking to himself...unaware that he could be heard. Trust me, written comments don’t do it justice – view the moment yourself.
We all know that the concentration levels, skill and adaptability showcased by Formula 1 drivers can appear superhuman and it is for this reason that you can be sure that these gems of ‘learning what to do’ will not last forever. Nor, one can assume, will these racing sessions of just ‘the lads getting together to race online’.
China is indeed the next stop and as such the two weeks leading up to the next virtual race on April 19th could be the most entertaining of the whole period. This is as a result of the drivers still learning the ropes of the official F1 2019 game and enjoying the world of ‘banter’ across the airwaves featuring such back and forth like:
Leclerc: We need to do one around Monaco though.
Russell: Well we know who will win that one don’t we?!
For this reason, at a time when looking for entertainment, there is plenty out there.
On a recent stream, George Russell commented to Charles Leclerc upon starting another round of F1 2019 that he thought ‘we were going to have some time off from this game’ Thankfully, for now with such light schedules, that does not seem to be the case.
Now, excuse me, as I am off to watch F1’s Charles Leclerc take on the Fortnite Squad with Moto GP’s Fabio Quartararo – a brave new world indeed.