F1 Esports World Championship comes to a close in Abu Dhabi

The 2017 Formula One season has come to a close. Lewis Hamilton was crowned champion and at the final race of the season and Valtteri Bottas scored his third victory of the campaign as the season ended.

The final race in Abu Dhabi also saw the end of the first F1 Esports tournament, too.

Nearly 64,000 virtual drivers entered in the qualifying rounds of a preliminary stage which culminated in a whittling-down to 40 who contested the semi-final of the Esports World Championship at Gfinity in London in October. Half of the 40 who made it to the London event went through to the grand final, held in the F1 paddock at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday evening (25th November) ahead of the curtain-ending final race of the season.

The event saw the 20 drivers take on three of the F1 calendar’s own events, with races happening on the Montreal, Spa Francorchamps and Yas Marina tracks, giving a familiar feel to the proceedings. At the end of a tight evening, four drivers were in with a chance of taking the crown in the final race, the Yas Marina leg. In the end, it was Brandon Leigh, an 18-year-old kitchen manager from Reading, who won outright, pipping Chile’s Fabrizio Donoso Delgado to top spot on a dramatic final lap.

That was the glamorous end of a process which essentially started out as a grassroots tournament before seeing the cream rise to the top. Such staggering numbers of drivers taking part in the early rounds suggest a healthy appetite for the competition next year, and participation always breeds further interest later on.

What was also surely heartening for the organisers was the breadth of coverage that the tournament managed to get. It was available to watch online through Facebook Live and on Twitch – live-streaming is a natural and obvious home for the broadcasting of eSports events – but this tournament also attracted the attention of other broadcasters who also showed the proceedings live to a wider audience.

But it wasn’t just the online or TV audience that was significant, in attendance at the final in Abu Dhabi was a raft of F1 mechanics and crew who watched around the paddock, as well as Fernando Alonso, who has recently set up his own Esports team. One of his own drivers, Cem Bolukbasi, took part in the grand final, winning the second race on the Spa Francorchamps track before coming in a solid fifth overall.

Sean Bratches, Commercial Director Formula 1 said, “We are delighted to be holding the Esport Series Final here in Abu Dhabi. The finalists have been whittled down from the 60,000 original participants. After the London semifinals, we are now down to the 20 very best edrivers on the planet, here in the specially designed garage in the F1 paddock. The attraction to a broad and committed younger generation of F1 and Esport fans is something that we are proud to support and nurture, and we look forward to establishing a season long series in 2018.”

Next season the challenge will be to build on the successes of this season, but with so much interest around participation and broadcasting as well as even being able to count the likes of Fernando Alonso among those interested in setting up their own teams, it looks as though the F1 eSports tournament will only go from strength to strength next season.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 831 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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