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Why the Formula 1 Virtual Grand Prix divided fans

Why the Formula 1 Virtual Grand Prix divided fans

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Why the Formula 1 Virtual Grand Prix divided fans

Why the Formula 1 Virtual Grand Prix divided fans

Formula 1's Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday evening was not met with anything close to universal praise on social media.

First, every F1 team on the grid was asked to supply real-world drivers in order to make the event as close to the genuine article as possible. Fans would probably have been happy if the official esports drivers had raced, but no.

The only two current F1 drivers competing were McLaren's Lando Norris and Williams rookie Nicolas Latifi.

Former F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg drove for Racing Point, while Mercedes, unable to tempt Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas into a few online laps, sent reserve drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Gutierrez into the fray.

Red Bull fielded Phillip Eng, a Red Bull athlete who currently races GT cars, and one of Britain's most successful Olympic cyclists in Sir Chris Hoy.

Elsewhere, several F2 drivers, including eventual race winner Guanyu Zhou, were joined by social media personalities and former F1 racer, Johnny Herbert.

Where other race series like NASCAR and the Australian Supercars have managed to create competitions involving all of their official series drivers, bagging a total of two from 20 is an undeniably poor showing from F1.

For some viewers of the race, an event that was broadcast live on Sky Sports as well as on social media platforms, the lack of actual F1 talent was the problem.

"Considering this was broadcast on most Sky Sports channels, it was diabolical," wrote one Facebook user. "Has so much potential if you could get the real Gladiators participating."

Another said: "This was a joke. Especially compared to the NASCAR iRacing event today with 35 real drivers and an awesome 10-lap clean run to the finish. Surprised F1 could be so much worse with participation and execution."

This second comment raises several other key issues.

The studio chat was solid, and gave F1 fans who have not played the computer game or are not familiar with how esports work, a clear picture of just what was about to unfold. Whether it was about the driver assists being run or the format of the event, the presentation was clean.

However, Norris, the star attraction of the whole event, suffered technical difficulties which saw him miss the entirety of qualifying. Despite his phone calls to other F1 drivers or McLaren team members providing some entertainment for those following his separate Twitch stream, fans being forced to wait for any action on the regular broadcast were left frustrated.

The race, originally due to be a 50% grand prix distance, 28 laps, was shortened to 25% distance, 14 laps, as a result of these difficulties. Where other esports had run smoothly across the past two weekends, this was somewhat embarrassing for F1.

Technical difficulties also forced Norris out of the running for most of the race and, despite several huge crashes even before the first corner, and Herbert cutting the first turn completely to jump from P16 to the lead, the racing was largely entertaining.

Those with real-world experience quickly rose to the top while those just happy to be a part of the race slid backwards, but entertaining it certainly was.

As mentioned initially, the event as a whole was not met with fulsome praise, but it was also not resoundingly panned.

Some fans liked the mix of drivers and, presumably after watching esports before or from an acceptance that any new venture can and will have teething problems, were willing to forgive the issues.

A more positive viewer wrote on social media, "After a few laps, I started to forget it's a sim. Lando battling at the end still got the adrenaline going and definitely much better overtaking action than the real F1."

Another added: "This is brilliant. It's so much more entertaining than actual F1 these days. Like watching the likes of Prost & Mansell."

Ultimately, the level of enjoyment gleaned from spectators appears to stem from just how seriously the individual watching wanted to treat the spectacle.

Speaking from a purely personal point of view, I fall in the middle of the two groups. As a form of light entertainment, I really enjoyed the evening's viewing, but as a form of serious racing, it was not for me.

Other more serious championships are readily available so, for Formula 1 fans searching out a fix of good competitive racing, do a small amount of searching and you will find a whole community of incredibly competitive racers.

As for me, yes, I will be tuning in with a big bowl of popcorn ready to watch the Australian Grand Prix when the series returns in early April.

Comments (1)

Richard

i decided to turn over to this "event" and am sorry i did. it was absolutely farcical. not realistic, what with cars spinning off and sustaining no damage etc. maybe a games person might like it but i am surprised that any F1 driver would even consider this. F1 would be far better off showing races from the 50s onwards. granted not a lot of film or video, but a hell of a lot more interesting.

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