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Esports racing is booming, but what do real racers think about simulations?
Rookies Charles Leclerc or George Russell are completely on board with the current trend. Nico Rosberg uses the virtual circuits to keep his reactions fast. Meanwhile Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo are more critical.
Charles Leclerc: Streaming on Twitch to express himself
Charles Leclerc is known for his involvement in streaming esports racing. He has a popular Twitch channel where he streams his virtual adventures. For him, streaming is a way to express himself and show his real personality, as he revealed in an interview with French motorsports news page Auto Hebdo. In real Formula 1 races, drivers were quite stressed and in a different environment. On Twitch, he can open up and search for new ideas to entertain his fans since most of them don’t have a sim rig at home.
Leclerc said he played around five hours per day. He added that a simulation was of course not quite like real racing since G-forces are missing for example. But to hone his reflexes, simulations were currently the next best thing to real practice.
Nico Rosberg: An important tool to practice
Rosberg stated in an interview with German media outlet RTL that while racers were not able to drive on real tracks right now, their fine motor skills might suffer over time. He argued one would lose the feeling for precision and general driving skills. According to Rosberg, simulations could help to prevent these from fading.
He knows that sims cannot replace real racing, but it could help to keep one’s reaction times in actual races low. The limited options to practice might be the reason Sebastian Vettel recently started to participate in esports racing as well. He assumed that Vettel saw his competitors spend hours of practiting in simulations, so he figured he needed to catch up and start virtual racing himself.
Lewis Hamilton: Not the right feeling
Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton is not quite convinced of racing sims, as he revealed in a podcast on the YouTube channel of his team Mercedes. He rarely uses his sim rig as he finds it difficult to adapt to them.
The movement wasn’t ideal as his seat at home was immobile. He explains that his mind usually told him the car was moving, but he didn’t feel anything. To get an immersive experience, one would have ignore that. Thus he did not enjoy the feeling sim racing gave him.
While he does not see any practical use for his driving skills, he enjoyed esports racing in general. He used to spend a lot of time in games such as Gran Turismo and various Formula 1 titles.
Daniel Ricciardo: Prefers fitness over esports racing
Whereas Red Bull racer Max Verstappen is currently a very avid virtual racer, his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo has no plans joining him. As he revealed in an interview with The New Daily, Ricciardo prefers to use his off-time for fitness and work-outs, rather than practicing with simulations.
Interestingly enough, he cited his competitive drive as a reason for him to not try out esports racing. He fears he’d spend too much time on becoming better and without realizing, he’d start missing training sessions. For him, physical training felt more productive.
His boss at Renault Cyril Abiteboul on the other hand supported the virtual racing scene, the 30-year-old told French motorsports news page Auto Hebdo. To Abiteboul, it’s real entertainment but also performance platform. The manager sees it as a good way to stay in touch with the fans.
George Russell: Esports racing became a real contest
Williams driver George Russell did not intend to be this eagerly involved in esports racing at first, as he said in a podcast with Sky F1. However, it was not possible for him to participate in the current virtual events just for fun. He wanted to be the best driver on the virtual tracks as well and actually win the tournaments. This drive for competition led to him practicing several hours every day.
Conclusion: A useful tool, but not for everyone
Not all pro racers are on board of the current esports racing boom. The opinions about the practical value of simulations might differ, but especially the younger generation of professional racers seems to welcome the possibility to practice this way. While apparently all drivers agree that it cannot completely replace the feeling of racing on real tracks, several skills can be trained nonetheless. On top of the practical use, esports racing also has the appeal of being a fun activity and opens the possibility to get closer to the community.