After a successful 2020, F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix roars back for charity

Ladies and gentlemen get ready to start your virtual engines again. With the world still looking every bit as uncertain as it was for the last 9 months of 2020, F1 has made a telling decision on its upcoming season. The heavyweight motorsport series will make a digital return to action on January 31 with the F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix. Consider that a warm-up for the real-life competition to come in the spring.

The F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series became surprisingly popular when COVID-19 threw the regular F1 season into a tailspin last March. Powerbrokers in the F1 boardroom rolled the dice on motorsports fans turning into esports competition when the pandemic halted traditional asphalt-and-rubber competition.

The gamble turned out to be anything but that, as it quickly became obvious that fans would happily watch races on digital tracks. F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix racked up over robust viewership numbers, with F1 drivers often taking to their digital cars along celebrities from across the entertainment spectrum.

In-the-flesh racing eventually returned in the summer, but that did little to diminish interest in the esports version. By the end of the year viewership of 11.5 million fans on live streams doubled the 2019 numbers.

In announcing the 2021 series, Formula 1 head of digital business initiatives & esports Julian Tan said, “It’s fantastic to see the F1 Esports Series 2020 break viewing and engagement records after a brilliant championship where we saw competitive racing and high drama at every event. “We had to adapt in the way we operated for this year’s Pro Series due to the pandemic, but we’re thrilled to see that it didn’t affect viewers enjoyment, or consumption, of the action.

“2020 was a tough year for everyone, but we look forward to bringing fans more excitement in 2021,” he continued, “starting with the return of the Virtual Grands Prix as we welcome back some of the faces that made it such a special experience last year, and invite some new ones too, all in the name of charity. Watch this space!”

That’s a heads up that, as with real-life F1 competition, there will be money in play for the winners of the 2021 Virtual Grand Prix. However, the big winners will be charity as opposed to those who can probably afford to miss a paycheque or two.

The series will team up real-life racing drivers with a celebrity, after which teams will then claim a charity of their choice. Ten FI teams will then take to the track over three weeks for three races. Points collected by teams during those races will help determine what charity gets what.

Fans can tune into on the charity esports series live on YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, and—depending on your location and cable package—TV.

Mike Usinger once took the better part of two years to finish Grand Theft Auto. Over the course of his career he has written about everything from eSports to music to movies to travel.

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