Where to look for the next selection of F1 Esports stars. After two rounds and four races, here’s a guide to the F1 Esports Challengers.
Image credit: Codemasters/EA
F1 Esports has been around since 2017 and in that time, we’ve seen many drivers compete in the series. Many of them get signed to teams through their efforts in independent community-level leagues and other major esports racing championships, but there is also a competition on all major platforms which showcases the brightest talents outside of the F1 Esports Pro Championship. The F1 Esports Challengers allows competitors to prove themselves and potentially earn a seat in the main series.
Challengers officially began in 2019, and perhaps the most prominent name to come out of it is Bari Boroumand. The Iranian won the PlayStation championship that year, and after impressing hugely in the Pro Exhibition races alongside the Virtual Grand Prix events with Alfa Romeo, he is now a McLaren Shadow driver and a real contender for wins and the championship.
Other noteworthy drivers that were signed by F1 Esports teams to have come from Challengers include 2019 PC champion Filip Presnajder who got picked by FDA Esports Team, 2021 PC champion Alessio Di Capua, runner-up Josh Idowu and fourth-place finisher Patrik Sipos who were selected by Williams Esports, McLaren Shadow and Alpine Esports Team respectively.
There were also many who came from the PlayStation side in 2021. These included runner-up Thijmen Schütte, third-place finisher Domenico Lovece, and then Matthijs van Erven and Dario Iemmulo who were fourth and sixth. They were picked by Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen Esports, FDA Esports, Haas and Scuderia Alphatauri Esports Team.
How does it work?
All competitors qualify through the F1 2021 game through time trials and race scenarios, the latter of which is intended to demonstrate racecraft. The best 16 on each platform got the chance to compete this season, which began towards the end of January. Each competitor is placed into a random car which they participate in for the duration of the season.
Each event consists of two races that are 25% distance of a typical F1 Grand Prix. The first race’s grid is set by an 18-minute qualifying session, and the second is a one-shot qualifying with everyone running at the same exact time and only getting the single chance at a lap. As is the case with playing the F1 game, the top ten from qualifying start the race on the tyre with which they set their qualifying time.
Portimão qualifying. One shot to get this one right… and it’s DOMINATION for @Shadow_3905 who takes the #F1Esports Xbox Challengers pole in Portugal 💪— Formula 1® Game (@Formula1game) February 1, 2022
Watch now ⤵️
Find out more: https://t.co/fnsEfLXTdT pic.twitter.com/devojrLfgI
The series also uses the same points system as F1 with 25 points going to the winner, 18 for second, 15 for third and so on. A point is also awarded to the person who sets the fastest lap, provided they finish in the top ten.
This season is made up of twelve races per platform, with the best six drivers on all platforms qualifying for the F1 Esports Pro Exhibition, in which F1 Esports teams can evaluate who would be the best fit for them.
Who is competing?
After four races, the Xbox championship sees the most convincing lead. Tom ‘Shadow3905’ Manley won the first three races and was second in the most recent race, but historically speaking, the Xbox series hasn’t produced a lot of talent which has been selected by the teams. Perhaps Manley will break the trend if he can keep the stranglehold he has on this series so far, albeit after only four races.
The other two platforms are seeing way more variety. On PlayStation, there has been a different winner at each round so far, and the lead is currently held by Joost ‘VSR_Joost’ Noordijk who won the PlayStation top tier championship in Premier Sim Gaming Leagues. He also has been doing some PC racing outside of Challengers and has been doing pretty well against some of the top esports drivers, so we suggest keeping an eye on Noordijk to end up potentially getting selected.
As we saw last year, the majority of players came from the PlayStation races. So whilst PC is the obvious choice since the main championship takes place on PC, the talent from console can never be discounted. With that being said, PC has never seen a grid so competitive as it is this season.
🇵🇹 He dominated in China, and he’s done the same in Portimão… it’s a provisional #F1Esports PC Challengers VICTORY for @tomek_poradzisz 👏👏👏— Formula 1® Game (@Formula1game) February 3, 2022
📺 https://t.co/sd6W0SdAp2 pic.twitter.com/T8oc45Qbnk
The obvious contender for the title is Tomek Poradzisz, the longtime F1 Esports protégé who has been preparing for a place in the championship since he was 13. He has been on the top level pace against some of the best in F1 Esports for many years, and has proven as much so far in Challengers with a sizeable lead after two wins, a third and a remarkable recovery drive in the second race to come from the back of the grid to finish sixth.
We interviewed Poradzisz in the leadup to Challengers, who is a McLaren Shadow academy driver. He currently shares that honour with Wilson Hughes, who we also interviewed when he was signed. Poradzisz and Hughes don’t race the McLaren cars in the series, and are in the Alpine and AlphaTauri respectively, and whilst the Pole has enjoyed consistent success, the Scot has endured rotten luck. But his results don’t reflect his ability.
But the talent level is so stacked on PC that there are way more than six drivers who could realistically make it. There’s Kedon Lutt, who won the 2021 Xbox Challengers championship and jumped over to PC after he was overlooked for a spot in the main series, the other two drivers who have won races so far this season Samuel Bean and Kristof Szelle, and then also Floris Wijers who actually competed in the main championship from 2019 to 2020 with Haas.
There are also drivers who are currently affiliated with Haas through their partnership with R8G Esports, those being Piotr Stachulec, John Evans and Ulas Ozyildirim. It’s realistic to believe that any of these three could be competing for Haas this year in the Pro Championship, but with last season’s rookie Matthijs van Erven impressing and not seeming to be going anywhere, only two at most can compete for Haas, and currently all three fall within the top six qualifying positions.
How to follow
Xbox races take place on Tuesdays, PlayStation races on Wednesdays and PC races on Thursdays. The next rounds take place 15/16/17 February on the Silverstone and Red Bull Ring circuits. You can follow the action on the official Formula One Twitch channel and Facebook page. All broadcasts start at 8pm CET and commentary comes from Justin Sutton and Kieran McGinley.
First week of F1 Esports #Challengers has flown by. @JustinTalksF1 and I were treated to a little bit of everything in the box to kick start the 2022 edition! 🎙— Kieran McGinley 🎙 (@KSMcGinley) January 20, 2022
Can’t wait to do it all again on February 1! pic.twitter.com/fKODCz0cMh
Who do you think will make the leap up to the Pro Championship from F1 Esports Challengers? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!