Ferrari joins F1 virtual championship for first time

eSports was played as a demonstration sport at last year’s Asian Games. (AFP pic)

BENGALURU: Ferrari have decided to join Formula One’s esports for the first time, thus ensuring all 10 teams will line up on the virtual grid in this year’s world championship.

The Italian team opted not to participate in the first two seasons of the official F1 esports championship but team boss Mattia Binotto had recently said they were looking to enter this season.

Mercedes won both titles last year, as in the real world.

Julian Tan, Formula One’s head of growth and esports, said Ferrari’s inclusion was a “momentous milestone” for the virtual championship.

“It’s really exciting to see that all of F1’s teams have bought into the vision,” he said.

“They see the huge potential of esports within Formula 1 and they recognise the importance of the program as part of our wider objective of reaching out to a new audience.

“We’re really looking forward to working with all of the teams to make this season a success.”

The esports championship will kick off with a Pro Draft in July, which will determine each team’s drivers lineup ahead of the four live events to decide the champion between September and December.

Formula One has more than doubled the prize money for this year’s esports world championship, with the virtual teams racing for a very real pot of US$500,000 compared to last year’s US$200,000.

“Season 3 is going to be bigger and better,” Tan added.

“We’ve already had this huge expansion in our online qualifying competition, and our draft is going to be bigger as we have all 10 teams involved and all of them will be picking at least one driver from the draft.”