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Formula 1 has officially announced that they are planning on hosting virtual Grand Prix races on weekends when a real F1 race should be taking place. These virtual races are designed to ensure that there is racing action to be watched by F1 fans during the COVID-19 situation. This situation has caused the official start of the 2020 Formula 1 season to be postponed with many races being cancelled.
All races will take place under the name of the F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series.
These virtual F1 races will be held online to avoid public gatherings and will utilise the F1 2019 game by Codemasters as the race platform. Every race weekend where a real-world F1 race should be taking place will be replaced by a virtual race at the correct location. These races start this weekend with the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The virtual Bahrain Grand Prix hosted by Formula 1 will take place on Sunday 22nd March. The race will start at 8PM (GMT) and will be live streamed by Formula 1. This first grand prix will include some participants from the real-world F1 grid, with F1 drivers such as Nicholas Latifi participating.
The drivers will participate remotely with the race taking place online. And there will be commentary and a full race presentation hosted from the GFinity Esports Arena. This is the same arena used for the official Formula 1 Esports series.
Each racers will log in remotely with the racing taking place on a hosted server running Codemaster’s F1 2019 PC game. Each race will be 50% of a real races distance, meaning the Bahrain GP will run for 28 laps. Before each race will be a qualifying session which will determine where each driver lines up on the grid, just like in real life.
Every race will be streamed on the official Formula 1 YouTube, Twitch and Facebook social channels as well as on their own website. Each broadcast is expected to last around an hour and a half.
Not every driver will be close to equal in terms of gaming skill, so Formula 1 will implement measures to try to level the field. Every car will run with equal car performance, meaning no one car will be quicker than the other. There will be reduced damage to allow for closer racing with reduced penalties for those who do collide.
Assists will also be available if a driver prefers. These include traction control and anti-lock brakes. These measures should allow for drivers who aren’t as familiar with the game compete.
The races and race results will be tracked throughout the series, however they wont impact any real-life standings. The series is designed entirely for entertainment purposes throughout the times where no real racing can take place.
When it comes to races which are new to the 2020 Formula 1 calendar, alternative tracks will be used from the F1 2019 game. This allows for a race to still take place during these weekends at new tracks. This includes the new Dutch F1 race at Zandvoort which was supposed to take place on May 3rd 2020.
The virtual GP series is F1's way to ensure that there is racing action to be watched by F1 fans during lockdown.
There will be a selection of real F1 drivers, along with other racing personalities participating, such as Lando Norris, Anthony Davidson, Esteban Gutierrez, Nico Hulkenberg and more.
The virtual GP races will take place on every weekend where a real world race was scheduled to take place.