Racing action never dies. The two major racing events have found a way to gather their top racers to put on their helmet once again and put the pedal to metal amid the lethal coronavirus pandemic.
Major and minor sporting events have been postponed or cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including motorsports. This prompted Formula 1 and NASCAR to temporarily stop their ongoing seasons. But motorsports fans can now watch their favorite racers compete once more. This time in the world of esports.
Formula 1 revealed on March 20 that it would launch the new F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series that would feature several of the current F1 drivers. The series opened on Sunday, March 22 with the Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix that featured the Sakhir track, a 50-percent length race that has 28 laps.
Julian Tan, Head of Digital Business Initiatives and Esports at Formula 1, said:
“We are very pleased to be able to bring some light relief in the form of the F1 Esports Virtual GP, in these unpredictable times, as we hope to entertain fans missing the regular sporting action. With every major sports league in the world unable to compete, it is a great time to highlight the benefits of esports and the incredible skill that’s on show.”
The first race was broadcast live from the Gfinity Esports Arena and featured a host of stars and current F1 drivers competing for the win. They all used the official F1 2019 PC video game developed by Codemasters, with the game settings configured for competitive and entertaining racing.
Formula 1 reiterated that the Virtual Grand Prix is strictly for entertainment, emphasizing the fact that the winning racers will not earn any World Championship points.
Meanwhile, NASCAR also launched its own eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race. Fox Sports hosts the said race and has already made the record of being the most-watched eSports TV show to date. About 903,000 viewers tuned in to watch the debut race, which also became the highly-watched sports broadcast on cable last March 22.
NASCAR fans can look forward to watching more eNASCAR races especially after the successful debut of the invitational series. The next race will be on Texas Motor Speedway on March 29.
With both Formula 1 and NASCAR tapping the esports sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, motorsports fans can only expect to get double the action and fun once standard races resume. Other sports may follow this trend, especially with news of pro football players joining FIFA Esports.
Online sports betting fans, however, may resort to only enjoying the said races as sportsbooks may not provide odds for these entertainment-only racing events. Despite this, Winners.Bet COO Savak Limbuwala said esports and esports betting will continue to grow despite the pandemic.
Meanwhile, sports bettors looking to bet on their favorite sports still can bet on virtual sports as an alternative during the coronavirus pandemic. Following the successful integration of motorsports in the world of esports, a recent controversy brought this problem to the table: how can everyone be sure that the real racers are actually the ones behind the virtual wheels. This came about when Formula 3 driver Daniel Abt hired a professional gamer to race in his place at the Formula 3 Race at Home Challenge in partnership with UNICEF. Abt had since then been sacked by his Audi team.
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