RACE DEBRIEF

    Formula 1 have revealed that the F1 Esports - Virtual Grand Prix series, which drew to a close last weekend, achieved a record-breaking 30 million views across TV and digital platforms during the lockdown period, as fans tuned in for live sporting action, including eight Virtual Grands Prix, Pro Exhibition races and #Challenge events.

    The series was created to enable fans to continue watching Formula 1 races virtually, despite the ongoing COVID-19 situation, and to watch their favourite drivers battle it out when racing was not possible. Throughout the series over half the F1 grid took to the track, with 11 drivers competing in at least one race in the series.

    The F1 drivers were also joined by a host of famous faces, including a Ryder Cup winner, professional footballers, and music chart toppers.

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    The Virtual Grand Prix races reached 21.8 million views on digital platforms alone, including the official Formula 1 YouTube, Twitch and Facebook channels as well as Weibo and Huya channels in China. TV viewership estimates suggest the Virtual Grands Prix also accumulated a further 5 million views through broadcast partners in over 100 countries.

    The second event, titled the Virtual Vietnam Grand Prix but taking place on the Albert Park circuit, was the #1 trending video on YouTube UK post-event that day (Sunday 5 April). Further success was evident on YouTube, with F1 having three of the top five sports videos on the platform in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy between 15 March – 28 April, with #2 and #5 being Virtual Grands Prix.

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    The series has allowed a number of F1 drivers to engage with fans on a more personal level, as well as boosting their profile on a wider scale, with drivers including Charles Leclerc, George Russell, Lando Norris and Alex Albon all regularly connecting with fans through their personal Twitch accounts, reaching an additional 2.7 million viewers, according to TwitchTracker.

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    The likes of Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero and the F1 gaming community also contributed to the growth, having streamed the events from their own homes. Due to the success of the Virtual Grands Prix, the official F1 2019 video game, developed by Codemasters, saw 1,000% month-on-month growth of streaming hours on the popular gaming platform.

    F1 continues to lead the way in its social output, which was enhanced further through content from the Virtual Grands Prix, gathering 695 million impressions across multiple platforms, and over 85 million views on video content throughout the series.

    Alongside the main Virtual Grand Prix events, #Challenge events featuring the likes of Lando Norris, George Russell, Nico Rosberg and David Coulthard achieved 1.9 million views across digital platforms. Pro Exhibition races, featuring the Pro F1 Esports drivers, received over 2.5m digital views, as competitors honed their skills ahead of the F1 Esports Series 2020 which will take place later this year.

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    Julian Tan, Head of Digital Business Initiatives and Esports said: “Now the series has come to an end, it gives us a chance to reflect on the huge success that it has been, which is reflected in the very impressive viewing figures and engagement stats.

    "Our aim at the start of this journey was to provide live sporting action for those craving some racing relief, and now as we and the teams, whom we are extremely grateful to for their support and commitment throughout the series, turn our focus to the 2020 season and the F1 Esports Series, we can be proud that we were able to provide such entertainment to our fans, and beyond.”