What Are the Key Differences between F1 Esports and Real Life

The Key Differences between F1 Esports and F1

F1 2021

In many ways, F1 Esports follows directly in the footsteps of the real thing. However, there are a few key differences between the two.

Photo credit: Codemasters / EA

Esports racing games always attempt to emulate real world cars, tracks and physics. Often, the esports competitions that arise from those games are similarly based on real-world counterparts. The Tag Heuer Porsche Esports SuperCup and eNASCAR are obvious examples, but perhaps the most well known esports racing series is also the one which tries to stay truest to its real-world counterpart. That competition is, of course, the F1 Esports Pro Series 2021.

F1 Esports has taken steps to ensure that the real F1 teams are all involved, and the official F1 games are the arena in which the competitors go head to head. Races feature twenty drivers and all of them must use multiple different compounds of tyre per race, just like the real thing. However, not everything mimics the real world of Formula 1 so directly. Here area few of the key differences between F1 Esports and Formula 1 itself.

Equal Performance Cars

Now, this may be obvious to those of you who are already fans of the F1 Esports Pro Championship, but there are always questions in Twitch chat and in the YouTube comments section of official broadcasts asking whether or not the relative performance of the different cars is the same as in real life. The answer is no. F1 Esports uses equal performance cars, meaning that no one driver should have an inherent advantage that the others don’t.


Drivers do, however, still have the ability to customise certain aspects of their car’s setup, including downforce levels and suspension angles among other factors. This does make a difference, but all possible setup configurations are available to all the drivers – no unfair advantages here! One thing this does mean is that F1 Esports lacks the car development aspect of real life F1. While some racing leagues on games such as rFactor 2 have created systems wherein competing teams can develop their cars to perform better in-game, F1 Esports has no such system in place.

The Unbelievably Close Field

When watching Formula 1, it’s a noteworthy event if the top ten cars in qualifying are within a second of each other. In F1 Esports, it’s commonplace for the entire top ten to be separated by fewer than two tenths of a second. Sometimes you can even find a driver whose qualifying time was mere hundredths away from pole position who will line up seventh or eighth on the grid.


With a field as tight as this, there are a few knock-on effects that further change the game compared to real life F1. Any tiny mistake that a driver makes has a massive effect on the overall outcome. Lost the rear for a moment on the exit of a single corner in qualifying? You’re out in Q1. Got your front-wing tapped into turn 1 on the opening lap? You can kiss a points finish goodbye. Such a competitive field piles the pressure on the drivers to perform at 100% in every single moment.

Practise Makes Perfect

One of the reasons that the field is so close in terms of talent is the fact that drivers are able to practise as much as they would like by simply booting up the F1 game and grinding laps at a certain track.


In real-world Formula 1, the drivers only get three hours of practise time at a track before qualifying begins. They do use simulators to allow them extra preparation, but it’s not quite the same as being in the cars themselves. F1 Esports racers on the other hand will often have thousands of hours invested into the F1 games. Dedication and commitment are key, any driver who isn’t willing to spend an entire week getting a certain track truly nailed is going to fall behind the curve.

Rules and Regulations

When it comes to the rules and overall race format, F1 Esports is largely similar to the real thing. There are a few differences which significantly change the game, though. First and foremost is the distance of the races themselves. Each F1 Esports race goes for 35% of the equivalent real-life Grand Prix. One effect of this is that there is less room to manoeuvre on strategy, as pit windows are shorter and tyres only stay fresh for a few laps. This also means that there is less time to make up for an early mistake than there would be in a 100% distance race.


Speaking of mistakes, F1 Esports drivers have to be very careful indeed to avoid corner cuts and track extensions, as the F1 games police such transgressions far more harshly than in real life F1. This leads to three or five second penalties often being applied to the esports drivers, which has serious implications when the field is as close as we mentioned earlier.

Another particularly welcome difference when it comes to rules is that the Q2 tyre rule is not in place for F1 Esports. This means that drivers who make it into the top 10 in qualifying don’t have to start on the same tyre they set their fastest Q2 lap on. This opens the door for drivers closer to the front of the field to get creative on strategy.

What other major differences are there between F1 Esports and the real thing? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

My name is Jacob and I have been writing for OverTake since November of 2020. I come from the UK, but I'm now living in Berlin. I love to watch, write about and sometimes shout about all forms of racing.