Formula One just announced its very first ever eSports world championship using its F1 2017 game, reports ESPN. So, good news for everyone who wasn’t gifted a go kart at age two: you’ve finally got a shot in F1 (sort of) if you’re good at its video game.
F1 partnered with game developer Codemasters and eSports specialists Gfinity to create the championship, which launches with the F1 2017 game in September and crowns a champion at this year’s season finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
This year’s F1 2017 release will include both current-season cars and 12 historic racers, plus an expanded career mode, different championship scenarios beyond what F1 uses in real life and improved online features. Codemasters’ Creative Director Lee Mather called it “the biggest F1 game we have ever created” in the company’s release. The game itself will be available on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC this Friday.
Qualifying events for the new F1 eSports world championship will start in September to determine the 40 gamers who will move on to the semi-finals. Semi-finals will take place at London’s Gfinity Arena on October 10 and 11, where the field will be whittled down to the top 20 drivers.
Those 20—the same number of cars in F1 this year, of course—will then face off at Abu Dhabi for the win. That winner will be added as a character into the F1 2018 game, get a ride in the F1 Experiences two-seater F1 car, and gets an automatic entry into next year’s semi-final.
F1 commercial boss Sean Bratches told ESPN that this new eSports championship is all about reaching a new audience, which is good to hear. Goodness knows, F1's previous leadership didn’t think enough about that sort of thing. Either way, eSports are growing, and F1 wants to hop on that bandwagon.
Plus, it’s refreshing to see motorsports dabble in eSports, especially when the barriers to entry into the top levels of racing are so high because it’s so expensive. Nissan infamously made real racing drivers out of its GT Academy winners, Formula E pit its racing drivers against pro gamers at an event at the Consumer Electronics Show, and McLaren wants to find its next F1 simulator driver through their “World’s Fastest Gamer” competition.
Gamers are picking up how to go fast without having to drop thousands or millions of dollars into a physical race car, and it’s cool to see that those skills actually translate over to real-life.