F1 22 screenshot of Verstappen being chased by field of cars at Silverstone

Are F1 Esports Drivers Quicker than Real Formula 1?

F1 22

F1 esports drivers are quicker than real-world Formula One drivers. Way quicker. If you’ve followed both real-world and virtual Formula One, this fact might not surprise you.

Image credit: Codemasters / EA

However, never has the data been properly analysed on how much quicker F1 esports pros are compared to the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen or Charles Leclerc. That seemed like a shame, so we did the maths.

In this piece, we compared the fastest laps of F1 esports against real-world Formula One. Not only will we paint a clear picture of how much quicker F1 esports is. We will also get to know whether the gap between the real and virtual edition is closing or becoming even bigger.

How we Gathered our Data

Since the inception of F1 esports, the virtual pros have been compared to F1 drivers. At certain points, they even competed against each other, for example in the 2020 Virtual Grands Prix or when Lucas Blakeley and Jarno Opmeer took part in the 2022 Race of Champions. But a comparison between both parties on their respective home soil has not been done yet.

In order to make a proper comparison, we gathered all pole position lap times from F1 and F1 esports. We then compared how much quicker or slower the F1 esports pole time had been for each respective race. In the end, we were able to paint a proper picture on how much quicker F1 esports was in each season.

Data was collected for the 2019, 2020, 2021 and currently running 2022 season. For 2017 and 2018, sadly, no data on the qualifying sessions from the esports GPs was available. Cases where weather conditions differed between the respective qualifying sessions were excluded.

Is F1 Esports Coming Closer to Reality?

To answer the big question before we get into the details: F1 esports lap times are quicker than Formula One. We compared 31 qualifying sessions. In 27 of them, the esports pole position in the respective year was faster than in the real world.

Also, F1 esports is steadily becoming quicker than real-world F1. In the 2019 season, when David Tonizza secured his first championship, esports pole positions were on average 1.6% faster than F1 poles. Or to put it another way: on average, F1 esports pole laps were 1.360 seconds faster in the 2019 season.

In 2021, the gap already had increased, with F1 esports being 2.13% or 1.713 seconds faster on average.

The 2022 season with its regulation changes, new cars and overhauled handling model in the game did not hurt the esports players. Currently, F1 esports is 2.4% quicker than F1. That is an average time gap of 2.040 seconds. However, there were only four comparable quali sessions in the 2022 seasons so far, so those numbers should be treated with care.

The increasing gap between F1 and F1 esports becomes more visible when we look at certain examples. Let us compare the results of qualifying in Austria. In 2019, Charles Leclerc was 0.388 seconds quicker on his pole lap than David Tonizza was in F1 esports. In 2020, the tables had already turned. Álvaro Carretón in his virtual Williams was 0.991 seconds faster than Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes-AMG W11.

What’s more, two weeks ago, Haas esports driver Thomas Ronhaar put in a quali lap 1.334 seconds faster than Max Verstappen in his Red Bull.

Does this Mean the F1 Games are Becoming Less Realistic?

To make it clear: F1 esports becoming quicker than real-world F1 does not necessarily mean the games are becoming less realistic. There are multiple reasons why F1 esports drivers are quicker.

A part of the truth is that there are numerous exploits in the game that allow esports pros to be faster. For example, our data shows that Bahrain is a track where F1 esports has been 3.238 seconds faster on average. The games are known to be quite forgiving with exceeding track limits on this circuit.

But there are also reasons beyond the developers’ control. Esports drivers are able to run as many laps as they want on each track to get as much practice as possible. Practice in F1 is, of course, always limited. Furthermore, driving an F1 car with all the physical effort it takes, is really something else.

So, comparing F1 esports to F1 like we did in this piece is a fun game with numbers. However, we must always keep in mind that we are talking about two very different kinds of sports, even though they race under the same flag.

Still, it would be fun to see how all the F1 drivers would do against the esports pros. And even more fun to see how the best virtual drivers would perform in a real car. Sadly, that is something the numbers can’t tell us and we need to keep wishing it might happen one day.

What do you think, why is F1 esports so much quicker than F1? Tell us your opinion by tweeting us @OverTake_gg or leave a comment down below!

Born and raised close to the Nürburgring.