Following the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, which saw the cancellation of the 2020 Formula 1 season opener at Albert Park, leading eSports company Veloce eSports wanted to make sure fans still had something to look forward to, so hosted the race virtually instead.
Veloce posed the idea to McLaren F1 Team‘s Lando Norris – which was dubbed ‘Not the Aus GP’. After he approved the idea, Formula E‘s Stoffel Vandoorne and also Mercedes-AMG Motorsport test driver Esteban Gutiérrez came on board with the project.
Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibault Courtois also took part, demonstrating the wide-ranging appeal of eSports, alongside YouTubers Aarava and Tiametmarduk.
The event was a huge success, with 170,000 concurrent viewers and six million social media impressions. Norris’ Twitter stream was the most watched in the world, with 70,000 live viewers.
After 29 laps of the Albert Park circuit, eSports driver Dani Bereznay took victory, with James Baldwin – who holds the title of the ‘World’s Fastest Gamer’ – coming home in fourth. Norris finished sixth after starting nineteenth due to being disqualified during qualifying.
Co-founder and chief strategy officer of Veloce eSports, Jack Clarke, said: “Once the opening grands prix were either cancelled or postponed, the whole team at Veloce got together and discussed the possibility of arranging an event that would fill the gap for motorsport fans.
“We came up with the ‘Not the Aus Grand Prix’ concept, which we felt set the tone. We wanted to use the F1 game because we felt it was accessible and after our co-founder, Jean-Éric Vergne, put out a feeler on his social channels, we felt like the appetite was there.
“There’s clearly always a competitive element, but most of all we wanted something where the audience could tune in and truly interact. The Veloce team pulled together massively to make it all happen, and we managed to get some fantastic people on-board. It was obviously great to get Lando involved, and to have the number one Twitch stream in the world and be trending across Twitter was a very proud moment for us all,” said Clarke.
Virtual on track action will continue on Sunday, 22 March, at the Bahrain International Circuit, replacing the cancelled Bahrain Grand Prix. Participants will be announced in due course.