It’s been 314 days since David Tonizza clinched his crown. And after almost an entire year, the F1 Esports Pro Series – using the F1 2020 game by Codemasters – presented by Aramco, is back with a vengeance!
Over the next two months, we have 12 frantic rounds of action ready to separate the great from the exceptional.
So what’s in store? Where are we racing? And who will be leading the charge in the title fights? All this and more, coming right up…
The Pro Series begins in earnest on Wednesday, October 14. But even before the racing begins, we’ve already dipped our toes in the proverbial waters of this season with the Pro Draft Reveal Show, where a new troupe of talent were signed by the 10 official F1 Esports teams.
There were some big names on the list, and it was no surprise to see racers like Filip Presnajder (FDA Hublot) and Tino Naukkarinen (Red Bull) get snapped up. Both have had strong ties to the series whether through qualifying, draft shows or the Pro Series.
The addition of Shanaka Clay (BWT Racing Point) and Bari Boroumand (Mercedes) were also not hard to see, given the duo’s explosive debuts in the Pro Exhibition races during lockdown.
And we also got to see a few slightly less-well-known drivers snapped up too. McLaren Shadow’s dual-signing of Matthias Cologon and Dani Moreno is a bold statement and shows the faith the team has in both drivers. Time will tell which of our elected newcomers will shine brightest, but you can find out more about them all here.
With such a long time elapsed since our last official F1 Esports racing, it can be tricky to pinpoint who’s going to be up to speed once we get going again. Our best feel for it is probably the aforementioned Pro Exhibition races.
Over the eight races, we saw seven different winners, with Frede Rasmussen the only driver to double-up. Lucas Blakeley was the driver who accumulated the most points, taking three second places and a victory.
THE TITLE FAVOURITES
There are plenty of talented drivers out there, both old and new. It will be hard to look past Frede Rasmussen, the Dane taking three wins for Red Bull in 2019 and almost scooping the Drivers’ Championship in the very final round. Once again he’s likely to face stiff opposition from FDA Hublot’s David Tonizza, who triumphed with three victories of his own.
The other driver to take a trio of wins was Dani Bereznay, who was best of the rest after a spirited campaign for Alfa Romeo. His new team mate, Jarno Opmeer, took two wins as well, and the pair are sure to prove a strong combination in 2020.
Two-time champion Brendon Leigh had a tougher time, and although he could only finish fifth in the standings, he bounced back in the Pro Exhibition races with a win, showing he very much still has what it takes. Pro Exhibition unofficial champion Lucas Blakeley must surely also be in with a shout, as he steps up for more races with BWT Racing Point.
2017 vice-champion Fabrizio Donoso Delgado is back with a full-time ride for Renault, so he’ll be one to watch, alongside Renault Vitality team mate Nicolas Longuet.
There are some twists in the tale for 2020, as a quarter of the calendar is comprised of venues new to the Pro Series. Mexico makes its debut, having been added to the Formula 1 calendar in 2015, after a decades-long hiatus. The race has proved to be one of the most popular in F1, winning the award for best event a staggering five years in a row from 2015-2019. It’s sure to prove a popular choice on the calendar, with a unique mix of long straights and tricky mid-speed corners.
Two tracks new to the game, and due to be part of the initial 2020 F1 calendar, are Hanoi Street Circuit, and Circuit Zandvoort in Vietnam and the Netherlands respectively. While Zandvoort has played a significant part in F1’s history, it’s been absent for more than 30 years, making it a brand new challenge for the Esports drivers. Hanoi too is a new hotspot for racing, and its appearance in the Pro Series means it will appear digitally before it does physically.
A new 35% race distance has been created for the Esports series, specifically designed for the Esports events. It’s a step up from the 25% race distances seen in the previous two years, and offers a little more unpredictability and strategy.
Racing remotely will also present its own set of ‘new normal’ to get used to as well, with the atmosphere and excitement of the studio not there to motivate the drivers further. Home setups and positive working spaces are going to be key for everyone competing, so getting that right will elevate performances for a slight competitive edge.
What’s coming up in our first event of the season? We begin things under the floodlights of Bahrain with a race around the Bahrain International Circuit. In 2019, this race saw one of the most dramatic moments of the season, as Alfa Romeo’s Dani Bereznay collided with David Tonizza, taking himself out of contention and in turn knocking off a part of Frede Rasmussen’s front wing. Had this event unfolded differently, we could have been looking at a very different season outcome indeed…
Then we move on to Vietnam, for our first ever look at Hanoi Street Circuit. An unknown track with 20 rapid drivers vying for the top spot? Sign us up. Finally, we’ll be racing in China, where Tonzilla took the second of three wins in the season. All three races will be knitted together with a remote live broadcast from the Gfinity Esports Arena in London, and broadcast around the world.
WHERE TO WATCH
In 2020, there are an extra three streams to enjoy, with FOUR live streams per event now available. This comprises two full qualifying sessions per round, available on Twitch from 15:30 BST on the Wednesday and Thursday of each event.
In the evening, you’ll be able to watch highlights of qualifying, plus race 1 and 2 on Wednesday, with live race 3 and highlights from the previous day’s racing on Thursday. These broadcasts will be available on Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, and on TV with our broadcast partners around the world, starting at 19:30 BST. We’ll see you there!