The Formula 1 Esports Series is back and better than ever in 2018 - and this year the official F1 teams will be setting up their own esports outfits to compete.
This season will be split in two parts. In the first, online racers will be offered the incredible opportunity to earn a place on the official esports driver line-up for one the official F1 teams.
Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport, Red Bull Racing, Force India F1 Team, Williams, Renault Sport F1 Team, Haas F1 Team, McLaren, Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team will all be offering positions in their esports driver line ups as part of the series.
Online racers can earn the chance to represent the official F1 teams
The F1 Esports Series will see the world's top online racers battle it out on F1 2017, the official game of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, in an effort to win a place in the first ever Pro Draft in July. The Pro Draft is where the official Formula 1 teams involved in the F1 Esports Series will select their drivers for the second part of the season. Every team must select at least one of its drivers from the Pro Draft.
F1 2017 players on the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system, Xbox One and PC will be able to enter the first of the four qualifying events from 13 April. The first event sees them take control of Valtteri Bottas' Mercedes in Shanghai hunting down a podium finish from sixth place with five laps remaining on a wet, but drying, track. The fastest ten players to complete the challenge on each platform will then race off in a live-streamed event final with the top three on each platform qualifying for the Pro Draft.
At the end of the four qualifying events and Wildcard stage, the Pro Draft will be held where the top 40 drivers in the world will be eligible for selection by the Formula 1 teams for their respective esports teams (Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport, Red Bull Racing, Hype Energy eForce India, Williams F1 Esports Team, Renault Sport Team Vitality, Haas F1 Esports Team, McLaren, Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team.)
The official esports drivers will then represent their teams in the second half of the season as they race in the three live events that will determine the 2018 F1 Esports Series Teams' and Drivers' World Champions with a prize fund of at least $200,000.
Following the success of the inaugural competition last year, which saw Great Britain's Brendon Leigh crowned as the first ever champion in Abu Dhabi, Formula 1 has renewed its partnership with Codemasters and Gfinity for the 2018 F1 Esports Series. Also, DHL have joined the Series as an official sponsor as part of the extension of their partnership with Formula 1.
Julian Tan, Head of Digital Growth & F1 Esports at Formula 1 said: "It has always been our goal to get the teams involved as soon as possible and we are delighted that they have recognised the potential of the F1 Esports Series at such an early stage. Last year's series was a great success and demonstrated that there is a clear audience and interest in this innovative, exciting form of racing. We will continue to invest in the Esports Series as we feel it is a great way for us to interact and engage with a new audience."
Frank Sagnier, CEO at Codemasters said: "Codemasters is extremely proud to be involved in the F1 Esports Series. The quality of the racing we saw during last year's series was spectacular and the integration of the teams for the coming season is going to take the competition and its promotion to the next level. We strongly believe that Esports is a platform that allows us to engage with a wide, diverse audience in addition to our traditional gaming community."
Neville Upton, CEO at Gfinity said: "We are excited to be retained by Formula 1 as the events partner. F1 and Codemasters maximised the true potential last year by fully integrating the F1 Esports Series into the final Grand Prix weekend in Abu Dhabi through both their linear TV partners and streaming platforms and we look forward to building on that success in season two with more events and broadcast opportunities."