F1 drivers to stage virtual reality races

London (AFP) –


Formula One's drivers will battle it out in an Esports Virtual Grand Prix series in a bid to give fans their racing fix while the season is delayed by the coronavirus.

The 2020 campaign has been put on hold due to the pandemic and races in Australia, Bahrain, Vietnam, China, Holland, Spain and Monaco were all postponed.

Formula One chiefs are aiming to start racing in Azerbaijan on June 7, but to fill the void for now the sport has asked current F1 drivers to play a racing game featuring as-yet unnamed celebrity guests.

"Featuring a number of current F1 drivers, the series has been created to enable fans to continue watching Formula 1 races virtually, despite the ongoing COVID-19 situation that has affected this season's opening race calendar," a statement said.

"The first race of the series will see current F1 drivers line up on the grid alongside a host of stars to be announced in due course.

"In order to guarantee the participants safety at this time, each driver will join the race remotely."

F1 drivers Max Verstappen and Lando Norris took part in two separate virtual races last weekend following the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix.

The races will be run for 28 laps for around 90 minutes and will take place at the same time as the postponed Grands Prix would have occurred.

The events start this weekend with the Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix run on the official 2019 F1 video game.

Viewers will be able to tune in via YouTube, Facebook and Twitch with a qualifying session to determine the grid preceding the race itself.

Results will not count towards the F1 world championship, but the plan is to run the virtual tournament until real racing can return.