Qualification for the F1 Esports Series has hit record breaking numbers as over 109,000 participants attempted to earn a place in the Pro Draft for the 2019 F1 New Balance Esports Pro Series.
42 Gamers have earned a spot in the Pro Draft for the 2019 Season, which will see all ten official Formula 1 teams pick to compete for them this season. For the first time ever, Scuderia Ferrari enter the series after skipping last year when nine of the ten teams entered. They enter the series as ‘Ferrari Drivers Academy‘.
The total of participants attempting to qualify for the series is a 65% increase from last year’s total and saw over 1 million lap times set during the qualification period on Codemasters Studios‘ F1 2018 Game.
30 gamers have earned their place in the Pro Draft through the qualification events via Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC; A further six gamers are added into the list through the DHL Fastest Lap Challenge, which saw the two fastest invited gamers from each platform perform the fastest lap around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
There are and additional six places for the gamers who competed in last year’s series, but have been released by their teams that have eligibility to re-enter through the draft again.
2017 third place overall Sven Zurner and Kimmy Larsson have been released by Renault Sport Team Vitality, as the team will field a new line-up including ex-Formula Renault driver Jarno Opmeer.
Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Esports have let Allert Van Der Wal and Sonuc Saltunc go whilst one-round entry for Haas F1 Esports, Tom Parker has been released and allowed in the Draft. Alexander Hanses was Williams Esports‘ third driver last year, but didn’t take part in any rounds and has been let go.
Prior to the live show of the Draft, the thirty qualified racers will compete in heat races to enter the final pool of drivers. The twelve slowest drivers will be eliminated from the competition. The drivers who competed in last year’s championship earn a automatic entry in the final draft pool.
Head of Growth and Esports at Formula 1, Julian Tan says he feels proud that many gamers have shown their interest in taking part in the series for 2019.
“We’re incredibly proud that over 100,000 participants from across the world competed to qualify for the 2019 Pro Draft – it demonstrates an incredible uplift in interest in our esports programme,” said Tan.
“Gamers of all ages from all backgrounds raced against each other to secure a place, and it’s particularly exciting to see that a younger, more digitally minded audience is really embracing the F1 Esports Series. Our continued focus is on broadening opportunities for the next generation of motorsport fans, and 79% of those who participated in this year’s qualifying rounds were under the age of 34, with half below the age of 24.
“This year is set to be monumental, with double the prize fund and, for the first time ever, all ten official Formula 1 teams involved. We can’t wait to see what some of the world’s best e-racers have got hidden up their sleeves in order to secure a place on an official F1 team.”
The Pro Draft will see all ten teams select drivers from the final pool to join their roster. Some teams have signed drivers from outside of the series already or have kept their previous seasons’ driver on for another year. All teams have to make at least one selection over the three round period.
Many of the gamers who qualified for the Pro Draft have connections with some of the Esports team such as Red Bull and Williams. Negotiations over deals with the teams and gamers have already started, even signing prior to the Draft commencing.
Teams entering the series have stepped up their Esports interest and platform since the introduction of teams to the series last year. Champions Mercedes AMG Petronas Esports have a dedicated Esports facility at the base in Brackley, where two-time champion Brendon Leigh and the Mercedes team train and prepare for upcoming races.
Red Bull and Toro Rosso have forged together to create their own Esports team that enters various levels of competition outside of F1 Esports, whilst Williams have expanded its Esports roster with multiple drivers racing in disciplines such as AOR, Gran Turismo and rFactor.
The Pro Draft will commence on the 17 July at the GFinity Arena in London and will be live on television in several countries, as well as streams on Facebook, YouTube and Twitch. The series has expanded for 2019 with four lives shows starting in September and a prize pool worth triple the amount from last year, with $500,000 up for grabs.