Eracing is getting serious. Sponsorship money is rolling in, and drivers’ reputations are being formed on beanbags (and sim-rigs) across the globe.
As if the world hasn’t been turned completely on its head by the coronavirus, we are now seeing the unthinkable: some of the greatest jobs on Earth being traded.
A Formula E driver avoids taking part in his own esports race and replaces himself with a sim racer, while a rock star is training to become a virtual F1 driver.
He is the mountain
After curating F1’s official playlist recently, Simon Neil – lead singer of Scottish stadium rockers Biffy Clyro – has fallen so in love with the sport he’s obsessed with becoming good enough to partake in a Virtual Formula 1 GP.
Not satisfied with gluing himself to a simulation steering wheel and pedals, Neil has enlisted the help of Alpha Tauri man and now F1 driving instructor Daniil Kvyat to teach him how to handle himself around the track.
The cost? Teaching the Russian former Red Bull man a few licks on the guitar – presumably to enable him to become a rock star, post F1 career.
Abt in a spot of bother
So what happened in Formula E’s Race At Home Challenge on Saturday? Oliver Rowlands’ crowning as the first British winner of the nine-round event – streamed on the BBC Sport website, Red Button and iPlayer – was massively overshadowed.
German racer Daniel Abt was disqualified and ordered to pay £8,900 to charity for getting a professional gamer to compete under his name – following what we all thought was a brilliant race in which he almost won.
Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne finally got off pole position brilliantly to lead, after weeks of terrible luck being taken out by his rivals at the first corner. But the Belgian driver battled with whom he thought was Audi-Schaeffler’s Abt through most of the race, but was actually sim racer Lorenz Horzing – swapping positions several times at the Berlin Tempelhof circuit.
The pair were eventually hi-jacked by the opportunist Rowlands, who drives for Nissan eDams.
Organisers took away all points won to date by 27-year-old German Abt, who later apologised, saying: “I did not take it as seriously as I should have.
“I am especially sorry about this because I know how much work has gone into this project on the part of the Formula E organisation. I am aware that my offence has a bitter after-taste but it was never meant with any bad intention.”
Abt was found out when several drivers raised suspicions after a feed of all the drivers showed Abt’s face to have been obscured. Organisers then cross-referenced IP addresses to be sure.
Monaco under the lights
All of the above rather overshadowed an intense Virtual F1 Monaco Grand Prix, won by George Russell for Williams.
The 22-year-old British driver overtook Pietro Fittipaldi’s Haas off the line from second position and he never looked back. Which was just as well, as Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari and Alex Albon’s Red Bull hit the wall on separate occasions.
But it was Albon’s epic, half-lap, side-by-side battle with Leclerc’s brother Arthur in the other Ferrari which proved you can get away with more than you can in real life, as the pair bounced off one another corner after corner – all under the lights in a fantasy twilight race set-up where no one can sustain any damage.
In the top footballer class, Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois confirmed he is the boss, ahead of a solid debut for Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.