Formula 1’s Virtual Grand Prix initiative was a success in 2020. Here’s how it’s evolving for 2021.
Photo credit: Codemasters / F1 2020
Initially, the first F1 Virtual Grand Prix races sprung up in response to the cancelation or postponement of the majority of races in the 2020 Formula 1 calendar. The idea was to provide entertainment for fans of the sport during an unusually long ‘winter break’ that was enforced by the Covid-19 pandemic. It was recently announced that they will be returning for 2021, though in a significantly different form. What kind of Virtual Grands Prix can we expect, and how will they be different in 2021?
Virtual Grands Prix in 2020
Formula 1 attempted to put on as entertaining a show as possible in the face of the global crisis that the world was plunged into at the start of 2020. By pitting a combination of real-world F1 drivers, both past and present, celebrities and other sportspeople against one other on the F1 2019 game, this entertainment was certainly achieved. Races were either twenty-five or fifty percent the distance of a real Formula 1 race and all assists were allowed so as to ensure accessibility for some of the less experienced participants when it comes to racing Formula 1 machinery.
What’s new for 2021?
In terms of the caliber of racing, the Virtual Grands Prix left a little to be desired. Many of the participants didn’t take the events extremely seriously, as it was all in the name of good fun. For 2021, the stakes have been raised a little. The constructor’s standings will be tracked and the various teams’ performances in the races will determine the share of prize money that will be donated to their nominated charities.
This is not the only change for 2021. The series will consist of only three events, each with a sprint and a feature race. The sprint race will be five laps long and contested by professional esports drivers, and the results will determine the grid order for the feature race. This race will be a fifty percent distance race, with famous faces making up the grid. Some of the participants have a little experience, having taken part in the virtual GPs in 2020. Last but not least is the fact that the racers will of course compete on F1 2020, rather than F1 2019.
Who is taking part?
Several familiar names for those who followed the 2020 Virtual GPs are already set to participate in 2021. These include at least two current Formula 1 drivers in the shape of the Williams Racing duo Nicholas Latifi and George Russell , the latter being standout performer in 2020. Multiple former F1 drivers will bolster the ranks, with Alexander Albon, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Pietro Fittipaldi and Stoffel Vandoorne all set to participate.
So much for the past and present F1 drivers – some of the interest from the previous year’s races came from the famous names from other sports and industries who tried their hands at the Virtual Grands Prix. Thibaut Courtois, a mainstay of F1 game events in 2020, will be returning for 2021. On top of that, Williams have teased the potential return of former One Direction member Liam Payne. However, their line-up for the first race at least will consist of their real-world F1 pairing.
Calendar and where to watch
The three races which comprise the rather brief 2021 Virtual GP calendar are the Red Bull Ring in Austria, Silverstone in the United Kingdom, and Interlagos in Brazil. These three events will take place on successive Sundays, with the first being the Virtual Austrian Grand Prix on January 31. To watch the race, tune it to the Formula 1 YouTube, Facebook or Twitch channels at 7PM CET. Alternatively, you can find the action as broadcasted by F1’s television partners such as Sky Sports, ESPN and Ziggo.
Who are you hoping to see in the 2021 Virtual Grands Prix? Tell us on Twitter at @overtake_gg!