FORMULA ONE stars Lando Norris and Max Verstappen took on top gamers in a virtual Grand Prix watched by millions this weekend after the REAL race was axed.
And upcoming races in Bahrain, Vietnam, and Shanghai have also been postponed.
But that didn’t completely stop the racing from going ahead this weekend thanks to eSports – with two Grands Prix on show, with one jokingly called the “not the Aus GP” race.
British McLaren ace Norris took on pro gamers and Formula E star Jean-Eric Vergne and gaming stars on a virtual Melbourne track.
Real Madrid’s former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was also guest star for the showdown.
Meanwhile, Red Bull ace Verstappen went head-to-head with elite gamers and fellow racers in a 12-lap race organised by Torque Sports and The Race – held at a computerised version of the pic German track, the Nurburgring.
That race racked up “millions” of viewers in what race organiser Darren Cox claimed was watched by more people than the Australian GP itself would have.
And it’s little wonder why, with a host of racing superstars – past and present on show.
As well as current ace Verstappen, former F1 star Juan Pablo Montoya took part, along with inaugural Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jr.
FE racers, IndyCar drivers and British Touring Car stars were also on show against the top eSports drivers.
VERSTAPPEN SPINS OUT
Having qualified ninth, Verstappen, 22, finished his race in 11th. He spun at the first corner, dropping to 18th before launching a superb comeback to storm up the field.
On the day’s fun, British McLaren star Norris – who finished sixth in his race, ahead of Courtois in 11th – said: “I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to race this weekend…
“As a gamer, this seemed the perfect way to have fun and compete – while hopefully giving the fans something to watch too.
“We are all mindful of the current health situation and are hoping for the best.
“The great thing about eSports is that all competitors can stream remotely.”
Meanwhile, on the other race, Torque CEO Cox claimed: “More people watched today’s ‘The Race All-Star Esports Battle’ online than watch a Formula One race on Sky TV in the UK.
“That is an incredible statistic.
“During the race we were the biggest gaming or esport stream in the world. Bigger than Fortnite.”
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Meanwhile, the “not the Aus GP” race racked up over 100,000 viewers.
Organiser Jamie McLaurin told the BBC: “This is a huge opportunity for eSports because for people who may have been watching the real sport and want to have something to watch and give them that fix, this may be able to provide a bit of that.”
Formula One is still hoping to start the real season in May, once the season moves on to Europe.