F1 Esports has come a long way since the thrilling climax of the first-ever season took place alongside the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Photo credit: imago images / Motorsport Images
The F1 Esports Pro Series 2020 commences on October 14, with the first of four events in the championship taking place. Reigning champion David Tonizza remains with Ferrari but a number of his 2019 rivals have switched teams ahead of the new season.
Arguably the biggest change for season four will be that all the drivers are racing from home or from their team’s factory rather than in the Gfinity Arena due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve also added full qualifying sessions and increased the race distance to 35% – two things requested by fans and drivers alike.
F1 Esports has grown in popularity with each passing year, but there’s always room for improvement and there are a few obvious changes that would further improve the quality of the racing and the show.
1. Even longer races
It’s great that F1 Esports has increased the distance of the races from 25% to 35% length, but it would be even better if this was extended to 50%. It is something the majority of the drivers want, with 50% enabling more strategic options.
It also allows more time for drivers who have a bad qualifying session or a first-lap incident, to recover to a strong position. Considerations over the length of the TV show have to be made, but 50% races can still feature all the frenetic action of a 25% race, particularly with the closeness of the F1 Esports grid. Most F1 leagues choose to run 50%-distance races and not without good reason.
2. F1 Esports should support the real-world championship
The showpiece finale of the inaugural F1 Esports season remains arguably the championship’s most iconic event. Brendon Leigh emerged victorious in a climax in Abu Dhabi that featured far more excitement than the conclusion of the real-world F1 season finale a few days later.
Although the series has since featured the arrival of all ten real-world F1 teams, it struggled to replicate that high point. This may partly be down to the fact that every round since has taken place in the Gfinity Arena.
It’s a great venue for esports but it’s become somewhat uninspiring and repetitive in the championship. We think it’s time for F1 Esports to return to the real-world paddock as a bonified support category to grands prix.
At the very least, the finale should take place alongside an F1 event. This of course is complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it should be considered when it’s safe to do so.
The travel costs could be high, but a round could be held on the Thursday before the British Grand Prix at Silverstone with most F1 Esports teams based close to the circuit. This would help to introduce F1 Esports to a wider audience and it would make crossover events with F1, F2 or F3 drivers far easier.
3. Get the real-world F1 drivers involved (again)…
One of the highlights of lockdown was seeing F1 drivers like Charles Leclerc, Alexander Albon and George Russell getting involved in esports for the first time via F1’s Virtual Grand Prix championship.
They’re obviously very busy with competing in the real-world F1 now, but they’ll be free in time for the grand finale of F1 Esports’ fourth season. It would provide the perfect opportunity for many of the F1 drivers to make their first major appearance in the virtual world since June.
They shouldn’t interfere with the actual F1 Esports championship, but a special All-Star race could be held alongside the final event of the season. It would feature a similar grid to the Virtual GP races with a mix of real-world racing stars and big-name celebrities.
You could even hold a crossover event, where the top 10 F1 Esports drivers would compete against the real-world F1 stars. To make things a little more even, the sim racers would start from the back of the grid and would have to make their way through the field in a 25%-distance race. All proceeds would go to charity.
4. … But shine the spotlight back on the F1 Esports drivers
One unfortunate consequence of F1’s Virtual GP series was that the sim racers didn’t get the attention they deserved. The F1 Esports Pro Exhibition races featured brilliant racing but unsurprisingly struggled to attract anywhere near the kind of viewership that the real-world stars attained.
There are some great characters in F1 Esports and brilliant rivalries, however they are rarely explored. Instead we’re shown videos during the broadcast asking the drivers questions such as ‘do they prefer pasta or pizza?’
We’re not asking for hard-hitting interviews that ask drivers about the meaning of life, but just something that would be able to show off the varied and interesting personalities of the drivers.
5. Teams should nominate one driver for the whole season
The final race of the 2019 F1 Esports final should have been a thrilling and tense battle between Tonizza and Frederik Rasmussen. However, it proved to be anti-climactic because Rasmussen had not practiced for the race.
This was because he was initially supposed to step aside for Red Bull’s third-driver Nicolas Longuet. When Rasmussen unexpectedly threw himself into title contention in the final event, Red Bull boss Christian Horner got on the phone and demanded Rasmussen take part in the title-decider.
F1 Esports places the emphasis on the teams’ championship because that’s where the prize money is distributed, but it neglects the importance and appeal of the drivers’ title. It’s hard to have an entertaining fight for the drivers’ championship when most of the drivers will not compete in all twelve races.
Reducing the three-driver line-ups to two-driver rosters would solve this problem, but it would limit the opportunities to join the F1 Esports series with just 20 places on the grid.
Therefore, we suggest that each of the ten teams should have to nominate one driver to compete in all twelve races. This would ensure that at least ten drivers would compete in every race and an greater emphasis would be placed on the drivers’ championship.
Teams would be free to rotate the second car between their other two drivers – still enabling 30 contenders to compete across the four-event season.
Do you agree with our suggestions? What would you change about the F1 Esports series. Tell us on Twitter @Overtake_gg!