Formula 1’s Virtual Grands Prix will return for three rounds on consecutive weekends during the real-life F1 off-season, and will feature “F1 drivers past and present”.
The world championship held regular virtual events on its Codemasters-developed official tie-in game after the COVID-19 pandemic last year forced a significant postponement to the start of the F1 2020 season.
Though there was no official round-to-round continuity or championship structure to the 2020 Virtual GP series, it managed to secure a regular cast of participating real-life F1 drivers, with Williams man George Russell named the unofficial champion.
While F1’s 2021 season has only suffered a minor delay so far, with the Australian Grand Prix opener postponed but the second round in Bahrain all set to go ahead, the championship has always intended to capitalise further on the opportunities presented by the Virtual GP series.
It has now announced a competition made up of three rounds: on January 31, February 7 and February 14.
And this time a formalised championship structure will be introduced, with teams competing for “a charity prize fund”.
“2020 was a tough year for everyone, but we look forward to bringing fans more excitement in 2021, starting with the return of the Virtual Grands Prix as we welcome back some of the faces that made it such a special experience last year, and invite some new ones too, all in the name of charity,” said F1’s head of esports Julian Tan.
While the original Virtual GPs utilised single-round qualifying and 50% distance races, the new events will be held to a sprint race/feature race format.
The five-lap sprint races will be contested by “pro gamers” and determine the grid order for the main 50% grands prix, which will be made up of “famous faces”.
Apart from F1 drivers, the original Virtual GPs in 2020 attracted celebrities from other disciplines, most notably soccer, although the fact the association football is currently in full swing will presumably complicate footballers’ continued participation.