Opinion: Why F1 Esports Challengers is better than the Pro Championship

F1 Esports: Why Challengers Beats the Pros

F1 2021

The F1 Esports Series Pro Championship may have the officially signed drivers, but there are several ways in which the secondary championship eclipses it.

Image credit: Codemasters / EA

With the F1 Esports Challengers season over, there’s likely half a year left to fill before the Pro Championship begins. Let’s fill a small portion of that time with why Challengers is better.

I wrote an article back in December of 2021 about the many many ways that the F1 Esports Series Pro Championship is lacking. Some of these could maybe be explained by the behind-the-scenes limitations. However, the F1 Esports Challengers series manages to improve on several of these issues with fewer resources.

So without further ado, these are the elements from Challengers that should be in the Pro Championship.

Better broadcast

In the article I wrote last year right after the Pro Championship ended, one of the complaints I had was that the races are not run live even though the broadcast attempts to give off the illusion that they are by having the drivers schedule tweets for after the race. This is a trick that Polyphony use for the Gran Turismo championships, and we all know why it’s done. Formula 1 and Codemasters don’t want to run the risk of something going wrong live on air and making their product look bad.

But here’s the weird part. Both the Virtual Grand Prix events and F1 Esports Challengers had genuine live broadcasts. Now, you could argue that the F1 Esports Challengers had fewer viewers so it wasn’t as risky, but the Virtual Grand Prix races had many more viewers than the Pro Championship.

Better format

The F1 Esports Series Pro Championship is currently made up of three races per event with two on the first day and one the following day, and those races are 35% distance of an F1 Grand Prix with the typical full three sessions of knockout qualifying. F1 Esports Challengers is, in theory, a step down. However, I believe that its format is actually better.

Instead of three races there are two, both taking place over a 25% distance with the first race’s grid set by a single short 18-minute session, while the second is a one-lap shootout. The Pro Championship ran 25% races for its first three seasons before upping it to 35% after an outcry from the community for longer races. The reason why these shorter races aren’t popular is because they don’t allow for strategy to influence the outcome of the race to a major degree.

However, full qualifying is unnecessary. The short qualifying format would work perfectly since qualifying wouldn’t be going on longer than the race. One shot qualifying would also be amazing, although it can perhaps be difficult to follow.

A one-shot quali format isn’t that great for broadcasting, but it would prove to be the driver who could best handle themselves under pressure that would set the pole time. There’s also the added pressure that if the drivers go over the white lines, they would completely invalidate their lap, which could cause some big upsets and shakeups of the order.

The shorter qualifying sessions make for more intense action and the process doesn’t feel as drawn out. F1 Esports Challengers having their two qualifying sessions and two races live on the broadcast makes it far more memorable than what the Pro Championship does, with having a dedicated show for the long qualifying sessions. It would be so much better if they ran two short qualifying sessions before a 50% distance race on the same broadcast.

Longer season

The Pro Championship in 2021 ran from 13 October to 16 December, with the first and second three-race events being two weeks apart. The third event followed after four weeks and then it was a three week wait until the final round. That was twelve rounds in a nine week period.

Meanwhile, F1 Esports Challengers ran from the week of January 18th to March 29th. Yes there were three sets of races (one for each platform) so there are bound to be more races than the Pro Championship but if boiled down to just the single platform, there were twelve rounds of six races each every two weeks, making it a twelve week long season.

Its much the same story with top tier league racing, Premier Sim Gaming Leagues intended to run their 15-round season over 17 weeks before their season was delayed by a F1 2021 desynchronisation bug. Plus, leagues run around three seasons per calendar year. This allows them to broadcast more races each year, which is much better than F1 Esports.

In fact, in many people’s eyes the highest tiers of league racing are superior to the Pro Championship. I’m not saying that there should be three seasons of F1 Esports per year, in fact it should remain one per year for the sake of prestige.

The F1 Esports China Championship ran a 12-round season with two races per round from May to November in 2021. The first six rounds took place on F1 2020, each separated by two weeks. This was then followed by a six week break to act as a ‘transfer period’ before the series resumed on F1 2021 for the remaining six rounds over the next twelve weeks once again. That’s a whole 30 weeks for a season!

Now that is certainly off the table for the Pro Championship. Unless Codemasters are asked by the teams to put their 2022 skins on their cars in F1 2021, the earliest an F1 Esports season will start is when the new game launches which is July. But again, as has already been established, Formula 1 will be reluctant to show the game being played if it’s plagued with issues.

Nevertheless, the F1 Esports season needs to run for much longer than it currently does because when a small time league like PSGL, an entertainment series like Virtual Grand Prix and what is supposedly the second tier of this championship in the F1 Esports Challengers series all do a better job at being more memorable than the top F1 Esports championship, then that’s a cause for concern.

Do you think that Challengers is better than the Pro Championship? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

Biggest esports racing fan in the world.