F1 Esports hopeful Tomek Poradzisz is one of many drivers vying for a place in the Pro Championship. He agreed to chat with us heading into the start of the Challengers series.
Image credit: Tomek Poradzisz / McLaren Shadow
Over the next few days, F1 gamers from all three platforms will fight it out for a chance to be considered for a place in the F1 Esports Series Pro Championship. The F1 Esports Challengers has been the place to be if you want to be under direct consideration for a place in the main series.
Just from last year alone, Challengers saw Alessio Di Capua, Josh Idowu, Patrik Sipos, Thijmen Schütte, Domenico Lovece, Matthijs van Erven and Dario Iemmulo all getting signed by teams.
18-20 January will see the beginning of the new season of Challengers, with the next bunch of F1 Esports potential future stars hoping to earn their place amongst the very best in the Pro Championship. Players on Xbox, PlayStation and PC will race every other week, with two races per event.
The experienced rookie
We interviewed McLaren Shadow academy driver Wilson Hughes when he was confirmed to the team, who originally raced on PlayStation and won two championships in a top level league racing series. He’s one of many drivers competing in the PC races that are very much capable of getting into the top six positions, which is the qualification mark for the Pro Exhibition. None of the contenders are more highly rated than his fellow McLaren Shadow academy driver Tomek Poradzisz.
Welcoming @JoshIdowu_ and @tomek_poradzisz to our all-new McLaren Shadow Driver Academy! 🎉🎮— McLaren (@McLarenF1) October 9, 2020
Find out how we’re aiming to develop the world’s most promising talent in the esports community. ➡️ https://t.co/hDhfZrbzy6 pic.twitter.com/YRs24qyJPD
16-year old Polish racer Poradzisz – formerly known by his online name ‘Hyperz’ – has been around the F1 Esports scene for many years, and is an established and well known presence across many top level leagues but only now is he on the cusp of making it into F1 Esports. Having been a member of Veloce Esports and then subsequently McLaren Shadow all this time, he has been running up at the front of the competitive F1 gaming scene, but until now he was not old enough to be eligible to compete in the series.
Some of Poradzisz’s noteworthy achievements in that time include finishing runner-up to Daniel Bereznay in the second season of Veloce Squadsprint and sharing a car in the inaugural Le Mans 24 Virtual with Norman Nato, Stoffel Vandoorne and Eamonn Murphy.
Happy to announce I’ll drive for @VeloceEsports in the official Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans 💪— Tomasz Poradzisz (@tomek_poradzisz) May 28, 2020
Looking forward to sharing the car with @svandoorne, @NatoNorman and Eamonn 👊
Let’s get this bread 🙌 https://t.co/k0EAW6rUs4
Poradzisz was kind enough to answer some questions we had for him.
OverTake: When did you first start playing racing games?
I think I started back when I was five, I picked up F1 2010 on PS3, using a controller with all the assists, that was my first experience with F1 games and racing. Obviously being very young, I wasn’t doing it competitively, not even having a basic steering wheel.
Then I lost interest in racing, but then when F1 2017 came out, I picked it up again. This time, I got myself a wheel so that’s how it all really started. Over the months, I was driving with a wheel and seeing massive improvements, so eventually I found myself driving on a high level, and here we are today.
OverTake: In your time racing, what have been some of your personal highlights?
Hard to say. There have been countless great moments in my career so far, but definitely some of the highlights have been from a competitive standpoint, being able to win races against some of the best in F1 Esports in high level league racing series but it’d be tricky to pick one specific race.
During the first COVID lockdowns, taking part in all those events like Veloce’s Not The GP races, Virtual Le Mans alongside Stoffel Vandoorne, being signed to McLaren, just so many great moments which makes it tricky to pick out only a few. Hopefully more to come.
OverTake: You have been an F1 Esports protégé and even an academy member of Veloce for many years, would you say all these years preparing for F1 Esports will give you an edge?
Oh definitely! The guys I’m competing with in Challengers now, they all have way less experience driving at the very top compared to me and that is obviously an advantage. I got picked up by Veloce when I was 13, and ever since they’ve been heavily supporting me so all those years of experience as well as support coming from a big organisation is definitely going to pay off. Come Challengers or even the Pro Championship, I will have benefitted from that.
But also, it gives me a sort of pressure. Everyone for so many years has been saying that “once this guy reaches F1 Esports, he’s going to be smashing it” and now this is what it comes down to, all these years being hyped up and now I have to perform so there’s definitely a bit of pressure coming from that. I have been said to be the biggest talent that may go through into F1 Esports this year, so it’s going to pay off but it gives me pressure because I know that all these years of work and being hyped up can’t go to waste now so, yeah it’s a bit of both.
OverTake: Your former McLaren Shadow academy teammate Josh Idowu got a pole position and a strong points finish in the last Pro Championship event. He showed immense progress and was unlucky to not get more points. What can you take away from Josh’s efforts in the series?
It definitely proves that you can get into F1 Esports and straight away be at the top if you have the ability. Ever since I started working with Josh, I always appreciated his talent, he’s a great driver, I like to think that I was matching him in places so it’s a good sign.
Even aside from Imola (where Idowu took pole position), he’s been driving great, he just didn’t have that much luck throughout the season but overall he’s been driving amazing. Knowing that I was able to somewhat match that heading into my first F1 Esports Challengers season, if I qualify for the upcoming Pro Championship, Josh’s season will be the benchmark for me. He’s set the bar really high for what a debut F1 Esports driver can do, and it definitely sparks some confidence within me, it gives me hope.
OverTake: Considering how highly rated all of your McLaren Shadow teammates are, how do you all go about knowing there’s three seats and five of you?
I mean it’s the same as real F1, the battle for the seats can be quite cruel. There are many times when great drivers miss out on the seats, not because they aren’t good enough, just because there are so many people who are at this high level, that sometimes they’ll just get unlucky and not get a seat.
It’s obviously a possibility but I’m confident in having choices next year. Being affiliated with Veloce means I’m not that limited in terms of team selection if I get the opportunity, so I’m not that worried. But with that being said, a seat with McLaren is preferable and with the hugely competitive roster we have, me and Wilson coming through, it will be a challenge.
I think that’s what our main goal in Challengers is going to be, to prove that we are the ones worthy of a seat. Whilst I’m teammates with Wilson, it will for sure be way more of a rivalry in the series since we are both fighting for the same seat this year and I’m sure we will both be pushing to the limit.
OverTake: You’re preparing for Challengers. How has that been going and who are you picking out to be some strong competition?
Challengers prep has been going well. I started very early but recently, I haven’t put that much time into the game. I rather quickly disappeared from league racing as school has become quite tough, especially at the end of this year so I haven’t put in as much time as I would have liked into the game so I need to make up for it. Overall time on the game is very important and I’m on half the hours of everyone else.
The grid is going to be super close, PC Challengers hasn’t been this competitive in a long time, there’s so many great drivers but only six can make it. Mess up a couple of races and you could be out of the picture. Thankfully I have been doing well when practicing the first few tracks, found a good rhythm, especially considering I’m driving the Alpine when I’m so used to the McLaren, got to adapt to a new car.
As for who to look out for, well definitely Wilson. John Evans is another, Ulas Ozyildirim, Can Akinci, Samuel Bean and Ruben Vallejo as well. Also Piotr Stachulec, we race together in a dedicated Polish league and in the round at Mexico City we both went quicker than the F1 Esports pole time.
It’s going to be very tough. For sure, it will be nice for people watching but for us racing, knowing only six of us can make it, the racing will be very intense.
Where to watch Challengers
You can see Poradzisz and his many fellow F1 Esports hopefuls competing in the Challengers races on F1’s official Twitch over the next few days. The racing will provide you consistent racing action all the way until the start of the new F1 season, with players on Xbox One/Series X/S competing on Tuesdays, PlayStation 4/5 players racing on Wednesdays and finally PC players will occupy the Thursday slots.
All platforms will see the six best placed drivers after the last race be directly considered for a place in the Pro Championship. They will compete in another Pro Exhibition event like what took place last May which effectively replaced the Pro Draft.
The PC racing where the likes of Poradzisz and his McLaren teammate Wilson Hughes will be competing in is perhaps the most competitive field but as we saw, the majority of players who were signed by teams from last year’s Challengers came from PlayStation. Therefore don’t dismiss the console races.
All broadcasts begin at 8pm CET and the 2022 F1 Esports Challengers schedule is as follows:
Rd 1/2: 18/19/20 January – China/Bahrain
Rd 3/4: 1/2/3 February – Imola/Portimão
Rd 5/6: 15/16/17 February – Austria/Silverstone
Rd 7/8: 1/2/3 March – Spa/Zandvoort
Rd 9/10: 15/16/17 March – Monza/USA
Rd 11/12: 29/30/31 March – Mexico City/São Paulo
🎮 The #F1Esports Series Challengers = 𝙏𝙊𝙈𝙊𝙍𝙍𝙊𝙒 🎮— Formula 1® Game (@Formula1game) January 17, 2022
16 of the best new talent on Xbox, PlayStation & PC each battle it out from 7pm GMT over six weeks to win a place with the Pros ⚔️
📺 https://t.co/sd6W0SdAp2 pic.twitter.com/52PTNiX1Iy
Will you be following the F1 Esports Challengers series? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!