eSports Hits It’s Stride Amongst COVID-19

Apr 7, 2020

Credit Formula One

The world of esports, while not at all a new thing, has been promoted to the forefront as a mainstream offering during these times of isolation and social distancing. The remainder of the F1 2020 season was put on hiatus as of March 20th, but that didn't stop the international racing juggernaut from debuting a brand new esports F1 Grand Prix series on Sunday on March 22nd.

Here are the facts: The virtual racing series is based on CodeMasters’ F1 2019 official video game. The esports series will have no effect on the standings of the on-hold season. This is strictly for fan entertainment according to Formula 1. Live commentators are on hand covering the virtual race broadcasts.

The first race in the series took place in-game at the Bahrain International Circuit and ran a qualifying lap plus 14 racing laps. Much shorter than the live races which are usually 305 kilometers divided by how long the track is (and that's how many laps a race will be, usually between 58 to 78 laps). The virtual Grand Prix had a mix of F1, esports teams and drivers as well as some former F1 drivers taking part.  The second race aired on Sunday April 5th and took place on the in-game Albert Park track (Australia) which ran for 28 laps.

Where to watch:

For those in the UK:

  • Sky Sports F1
  • Sky Sports Main Event
  • Sky Sports Mix Sky channel 145
  • The official F1 Streaming service

For those in the USA:

  • ESPN2

There are also special F1 Esports Pro Exhibition races that will be available on:

  • The official F1 Youtube channel
  • The official F1 Facebook channel
  • The official F1 Twitch channel

The Virtual Grand Prix series is tentatively scheduled to run until May. For more details checkout F1Esports.com

In other virtual racing news - iRacing, which debuted a Single-make Porsche Esports racing Championship in 2019, is kicking it up a notch this year. Tag Heuer has stepped on board as a new title sponsor. The resulting "Porsche Tag Heuer Esports Supercup'' debuted a Pre-season test on March 28th. The official season opener begins on May 2nd and runs through September 2020 on iRacing's Twitch channel. Racers will be trying to claim a grand prize of $200,000, and the roster will be fielded by veteran iRacing and Esport racing champions.

For more information visit iracing.com

Nascar, also on hiatus, has been hosting its "Replacements 100". This series also hosted on the iRacing platform consisted of current and former Nascar drivers including the recently retired Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Nascar esport broadcasts have gone so far as to include a pre-race national anthem. Currently planned as an 8-race series, it will run every Tuesday night at 9pm ET.

Where to watch:

  • Fox Sports FS1
  • Twitch.tv/iRacing

IndyCar hosted its second mainstream esports event on Saturday, also hosted on the iRacing platform. A series that includes drivers from Formula E, Indycar, IMSA and Formula 1, is planned to be 6 races in total and will run to May 2nd.  The virtual broadcasts are Saturday afternoon 4pm ET. 

Where to watch:

  • Twitch.tv/iRacing

Professional esport racers use professional grade setups when racing online. This includes a steering wheel, pedal and racing seat. These sets cost up to several thousand dollars, but you don't have to spend that much to get in on the virtual racing action. Is it worth it to spend more or can you get by on the basics? Check out my gaming wheel comparison article here: https://superggradio.wordpress.com/2019/12/10/the-wheel-deal/

Philip Orona is a member of Super GG Radio on The Front Row Network.