Jean-Eric Vergne and his eSport team, Veloce Esports, organised a virtual event last Sunday to compensate for the cancellation of the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Named “Not the AusGP” and played on the F1 2019 game, it brought together many real and virtual stars.
Among the drivers were Lando Norris, Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Gutierrez. Vergne reveals that a second event is in preparation, with the aim of taking part in all the cancelled races.
“It’s being organised, but we’re going to try to do all the Grand Prix of the season. We should have more F1 drivers coming, that should be announced in the next few days, before Bahrain,” the Frenchman explained in Ouest-France.
“Originally I really did this to give the fans the opportunity to see a race. Everybody was waiting for the start of the season, and the fact that the Grand Prix was cancelled was a bit frustrating.”
“We created the non-Australian Grand Prix in just a couple of days. We thought, why not get all these people together, drivers and gamers, and do Grand Prix instead of the ones that were supposed to happen?”
A small technical glitch in the servers delayed the Australian GP somewhat, but “the broadcast is going to change, we’re going to get more professional. For example, last week we had a minor crash because there were a lot of people at the start, too many people compared to what we usually get. But now we’ve invested in servers and computers.”
“And even with the bug at the start, the race was a great success, with overtaking, fighting on the track, different strategies… We are revisiting a little bit the atmosphere of F1 and motorsport. It’s different, because it’s a video game. But in the end, you have real drivers racing against each other in a very realistic video game.”
“We didn’t have all the F1 drivers, but we had stars who came, like Lando Norris or Stoffel Vandoorne, or like Thibaut Courtois, the Real Madrid goalkeeper. There are also the gamers, who are stars in the world of e-sport, with millions of followers. Some of them have almost more fans than some of the drivers.”
NASCAR is rumored to start putting the e-races on TV in the place of their canceled races, whilst Aussie Supercar series has already started their ‘virtual series’.
F1 is also looking to develop its virtual aspect, as it has done in recent years with F1 Esports, and Julian Tan, the director of eSport in F1, has been thinking about these possibilities since the cancellation of the Chinese Grand Prix.
“At times like these I think there is huge potential for us to be able to use our new product to see how we can fill the gaps in the calendar. There will be an announcement in the next few days,” he said.
Earlier this week in a separate event, Lando Norris and Max Verstappen entered a virtual race on iRacing. This online series has occurred several times in the past, usually in the off-season, but featuring both Verstappen and Norris. A clip of Lando’s ‘accidental’ smashing into Max can be viewed below.