Over the last year, we saw a lot of sports, including Formula 1, needing to pivot away from their traditional offerings and move into the online domain to keep their fans interested, as live sports was on a global hiatus for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the pandemic is still raging, most, if not all sports have resumed in some form, with most of them largely doing so in the absence of spectators.
It will still be quite some time before we can go back to the usual days of packed stadiums and arenas, which is why it has been important for sports teams and franchises to try and keep new methods of engaging with their fans. One of the ways in which many sports did so is through esports, and Formula One was perhaps the most successful at this.
Formula One had perhaps one of the most disrupted seasons in its history last year, in what should have been a historic year. 2020 was going to be the year with the most races in a season ever, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant that this did not happen.
In fact, there were multiple races held at the same circuits due to the pandemic and the accompanying travel restrictions globally, but it was still to the credit of the organizers as well as the medical protocols that were put in place that the season was completed.
Lewis Hamilton won his seventh F1 driver’s championship, equalling Michael Schumacher’s record and earning a knighthood in the process as well, while Mercedes also won their seventh-consecutive constructors’ championship in an unprecedented era of dominance. However, during the absence of live race action, fans all over the world were treated to the spectacle of F1 drivers competing against reserve drivers and sportsmen from other sports in virtual Grands Prix, which proved to be immensely popular.
These virtual events took place on the F1 2019 game, which is extremely realistic and simulates the race experience so accurately that drivers often use it for practice during off-season.
The success of these events also prompted the creation of the Mobile Esports series, which was won by Italian Matteo Pagliani recently. This event saw more than 10 million matches, of which 3,500 players made it to the Grand Finals stage. During the two-hour window for the Grand Final, Pagliani played in 53 player-vs-player duels, which gave him the most points by the time the event closed, and crowned him as the inaugural winner.
He will receive a special life-size trophy for his achievements, as well as another special prize, which will be announced soon. This is quite a story, since Pagliani is just 21 years old, and he says that he is not really a gamer, but the fact that he won 52 of the 53 duels he competed in during the Grand Final shows that he was quite proficient at the F1 mobile game.
He said that he practiced for two hours each day, which is a staggering feat and shows that there is a lot of work and dedication that needs to go into winning esports tournaments as well.
Pagliani’s success, as well as the engagement and following that this tournament garnered, is a great way to show that esports is a thriving space right now, and sports teams, franchises and governing bodies would do well to think of partnering with esports organizations to further improve their image, brand value and the number of people they are able to reach and influence, which in turn will lead to more revenue and more fans being attracted to them over time.