Back in 2017, Formula One launched its first esports series. By 2018, nine of the 10 teams participating had signed up to the esports series and hired drivers to represent them.
However, there was one notable omission from the list: Ferrari. That could well be about to change.
What is Ferrari up to?
After their initial reticence, Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto suggested earlier this month that they’re coming around.
“Esports is increasing in terms of interest, and, certainly, as Ferrari, we are looking seriously into it.
“We are not yet fully committed to the programme but it’s something where the discussions are ongoing. We will, very soon, make our own decision.”
The announcement came on the back of the news that the F1 Esports season will continue in 2019 with the same nine teams and $500,000 in prize money. The Pro Series will commence in September and crown a champ in December.
How the F1 Esports Pro Series has evolved
Ferrari’s change of heart may well have been instigated by the rapid growth of this esport. In the original season, the Pro Series lasted for just three races with Mercedes driver Brendon Leigh landing the first title.
However, by 2018, the number of races in the series had increased to nine. Once again, Leigh was the comfortable winner, after shedding 20 kg in weight for the season.
Leigh’s success in esports has translated into the real world too. Leigh competed in the BRSCC Formula Ford 1600 Series in April. He was also in action in Oulton Park a couple of weeks ago.
Ultimately, F1 and other motorsport teams can benefit from F1 esports, with drivers excelling in the field then going on to produce similar high-quality performances on the track. This is meaningful. More on that in a minute.
Ferrari’s big deal
Right now, there’s a Ferrari-sized hole in this burgeoning league. The Tifosi are without a doubt the most popular F1 team globally. Theirs is an iconic brand name. Having an F1 series without Ferrari is akin to having a Champions League tournament without Barcelona or Real Madrid.
However, the Italian team is notably reticent about anything outside the direct scope of racing and automobile production. They, along with Mercedes, refused to participate with Netflix in a series about Formula 1 last year.
Part of the issue is privacy. With teams investing millions in developing their cars and technology, they are fastidious in trying to keep their developments away from competitors. After all, Ferrari and Mercedes are the two biggest spenders in the league in this respect.
Money talks, however, and if Ferrari can see some financial benefit to esports, they won’t stay out of the race much longer.
Image credit: Charles Coates / Stringer / Getty