Formula 1’s move into esports another sign the sport is looking to the fans of tomorrow

Yesterday came the unexpected announcement that Formula 1 will take its first step into esports with the launch of the Formula 1 Esports Series next month.

Since Liberty Media took over the running of the sport they have been extremely active when it comes to digital. Allowing teams much more opportunity to use social media has seen a surge in new followers, and creativity, and this foray into esports is the latest step in engaging with younger fans of the sport.

They will certainly have learned from Formula E and how they have set up their own series: taking advantage of not being the first mover in the space and also linking up with an already successful games franchise developed by Codemasters.

The timing of the series coincides with the launch of the 2017 version of the game with the final 40 players playing the semi-finals at Gfinity Arena in London on October 10th & 11th. The final is then played at the same location as the final F1 race, the Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi. So the winner will be crowned on the same weekend as their F1 track equivalent.

Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations at Formula 1 said:

“This launch presents an amazing opportunity for our business: strategically and in the way we engage fans. First, it’s a growing category with tremendous fan engagement that we’re entering in a big way; and we are proud to have Codemasters and Gfinity joining us on this ride. Of course as we do in Formula 1, we’ll continue to evolve and innovate in the way we run this virtual counterpart to the F1 Championship to ensure we provide the most exciting and enjoyable experience we can for our fans.”

We know that F1 has had a problem over a number of years as Bernie Ecclestone ignored the need to engage with young fans or look at the future of the sport, instead focusing on protecting what he saw as the sanctity of the races and making as much money as possible out of the media, race tracks and fans.

The areas where F1 was lacking was where Formula E stepped into, and where it’s been successful in. Racing on street circuits in the middle of cities instead of expensive purpose built tracks out of town. Making digital fan engagement an absolute focus and part of their identity, not something grudgingly allowed at a minimal level. So now Liberty Media are playing catch up, taking elements they like from FE and noting how the likes of FIFA and NBA have been successful within gaming and are now developing esports series.

Nick Jackman, from F1 digital specialists Fifty.Digital, thinks it’s another move in the right direction for the sport;

“Formula 1’s venture into esports is the latest in a line of modernising changes since Liberty Media took control. It’s another step towards ensuring the depth and range of fan engagement matches the innovation and dynamism of the sport itself as Formula One attempts to catch-up to its rivals. 

Esports is a rapidly expanding sector and one with huge potential for Formula One, where simulators and computing play such a pivotal role in performance. We’ve seen McLaren add the carrot of an official role as team simulator driver already, so don’t be surprised if others follow suit or if esports starts to become a more pro-active recruitment tool.”

For the winner of this year’s competition there is not only the carrot of being the first ever champion, but the winner will also be the Formula 1 Esports Champion Expert for 2018 and will automatically qualify for the semifinals of next year’s Formula 1 Esports Series. The first winner will also be offered the opportunity to live the full experience of a Formula 1 race by attending one of the 2018 Grands Prix, as well as becoming a character in the F1™ 2018 game. So expect the competition the be fierce!

And as Nick neatly sums it up; “Anything which enhances fan engagement, innovates and adds an extra commercial layer, is positive for the future of Formula One.”


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Daniel McLaren
Daniel McLaren 773 posts

Dan is the Founder & CEO of Digital Sport. Can be found at sports industry events and heard every week on the Digital Sport Insider podcast. @DanielMcLaren

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