The 2019 F1 New Balance Esports Pro Series will welcome new faces into the competition as they bid to chase down Brendon Leigh and Mercedes AMG Petronas Esports for the F1 Esports crown.
New drivers and a new team in Ferrari will join this year’s four live shows at the GFinity Arena in London this year, with the title set to be decided on the 4 December 2019.
Within the latest batch of recruits, there’s one driver who managed to achieve a goal of racing in the series within 12-months. Nicolas Longuet from France watched last year’s Pro Draft from his home, seeing sixteen gamers accomplish a dream of being recruited by an F1 team. Longuet set his sights on achieving the same and joined the competition through the event qualification on Codemasters‘ F1 2018.
With the support of his family, Longuet pursed on a prospect of racing in F1’s Esports competition. He competed in the Apex Online Racing leagues to help him get up to speed and compete against some of the stars from the series. Fast forward a year later; he signed with the Red Bull Esports team.
The Frenchman was picked fifth overall in the Pro Draft back in July, after winning his heat race in a bid to earn a place on the live show. Red Bull snatched him to join their roster and becomes the third driver in their Esports team ahead of the 2019 Season.
“Completely amazing and the fact I achieved this in short time is just incredible,” said Longuet on being drafted by Red Bull.
“I never thought I could reach this in such a short amount of time. That was the dream, like last year I remember myself watching the Pro Draft and dreaming of being there one day. And in the next year, I’m here. I’m just speechless.
“I just kept my head down and kept practising. I was so motivated to get better and race against the best players and of course, without my family motivating me.
“They helped me a lot. They’re happy for me, and I’m happy I’m in this position now.”
Longuet is a relatively new face within the F1 Esports scene, entering the qualifiers for the first time in the series’ three year history. He was successful in his first try on PlayStation 4, earning a spot for the heat race at the Pro Draft.
His rise from nowhere to being one of the drivers to watch out for caught the eyes of the teams and majority of Esports analysts in the series. His sudden surge to the top came thanks to his parents supporting their son with his dream and to become one of the few gamers who got invited to London for the heat races and live show.
Longuet in his class handled the race with ease by winning the race and earning a place for the show, increasing his chances of being recruited by an F1 team.
The heat race was a new concept introduced by the series in a bid to shake up the draft and to allow the teams to get one final look at the driver’s performances before they headed into the live show. The concept proved to be a success as eight out of the ten draftees came from the heat races.
Talking about the heat races, Longuet found the process of racing for his dreams stressful and didn’t have any expectations whether he would get picked by Red Bull or not, despite coming out on top in his heat.
“It was very stressful mentally like that’s all you think about for the past couple of weeks. That’s all I’ve been focused on. Training, training because also qualifying being a one-shot, that’s just the most stressful thing you can go through. I’m just so proud that I work so hard for it.
“I’ve seen people get picked when they didn’t win the heat race, so there was always a chance that I wasn’t going to get picked. And I was still going to be fine with it because already achieving this and just coming to the Pro Draft is a big achievement for me.
“I was pretty confident I could off been picked by a team, definitely not Red Bull. I was not expecting Red Bull. I mean they’re a big team, and I’m proud to be part of them now.”
Longuet’s performance in the heat race caught the attention of some teams before the live show, with some interested in using their draft pick on the Frenchman. Teams got the chance to interview a selection of drivers before they made their selection for the 2019 season. Longuet revealed that he held initial talks with Red Bull, but also with Racing Point F1 Esports, McLaren Shadow and Ferrari, who held the first overall pick in the Pro Draft.
Red Bull Esports will field a strong line-up for the 2019 F1 Esports Series with Joni Tormala staying on for a second season, with Frederik Rasmussen earning a promotion from Toro Rosso Esports after his third-place finish overall last year.
The trio will hope they can halter Mercedes and Leigh’s dominance within the series, as the Brit has been crowned champion for the last two seasons. Longuet expects the experience of Rasmussen and Tormala to be useful in preparation for the series.
“My expectations are to work the hardest as a team, meet my new team-mates, work with them and do our best in the Pro Series,” commented Longuet on his expectations for the upcoming season.
“They’re going to be an immense help to me because they have experience and are going to teach me a lot of stuff. Maybe I can bring some stuff to the team too. I guess I’ll see.”