The 2021 F1 Esports Challengers series ends this week with six separate races across PS4, Xbox One and PC at the Circuit of the Americas and Yas Marina Circuit.
The finale starts tonight, 27th April at 19:00 BST, for PS4 players, then 28th April for Xbox entrants and on the 29th April for those using a PC.
In simple terms, there are 58 drivers all racing in the F1 2020 game against each other, vying for esports supremacy across 10 rounds. But there’s way more on the line than simply winning races online.
How F1 Esports Challengers works
After a series of preliminary qualifying sessions within F1 2020 and the passing of scrutineering to check for any game exploits and an internet speed test, there is then a grid of 16 PC, PS4 and Xbox One racers.
Alongside the main competitors, there’s also a suite of backup competitors ready and waiting should anyone drop out. For example, Tom Martinez (Tom97) in the current PC competition was originally a reserve.
These competitors then race online against each other during five live events and ten races, with the final event and two races happening this week. Time trial leaderboards are out of the window, this is wheel-to-wheel action.
Points are accrued after each of the ten races, just like real F1 including the fastest lap point if you finish inside the top ten, meaning a perfect season would net 260 points. A winner is crowned on each of the three platforms after all the races have been completed.
So far, so good, but actually winning the Challengers series isn’t necessarily the main goal, finishing inside the top five is…
Fitting F1 Esports Challengers into F1 Esports Pro Series
The main F1 esports championship each year, excluding the popular Virtual Grand Prixs for real-world drivers and internet personalities, is the F1 Esports Pro Series.
Broadcast live, this will see a grid filled with full-time esports drivers representing each Formula 1 team on the grid, battling in races and in person on location.
Historically, each F1 team’s esports squad has three drivers. Predominately that consists of two main drivers and a reserve driver, however driver rotation is allowed and if a squad is mainly aiming for the Teams’ Championship, they could split the races evenly across their three drivers, allowing them to focus on specific tracks. Renault – now Alpine – tried this last season, for example.
This season there will be an F1 Esports Pro Exhibition, to be held on the 27th May, but previously this has been a Pro Draft. For example, Ferrari has signed Brendon Leigh and David Tonizza, but will add to this team through the Pro Exhibition.
“When a team picks a driver from the available draft previously, they may not become a lead driver, but you never know. The Pro Exhibition drivers could be a real threat to the established pro esports team members this year. Williams Esports driver Martin Stefanko said to me that this year’s Challenge field looks like the fastest group of drivers he’s seen,” explains our very own Justin Sutton, who is co-commentator for the 2021 F1 Esports Challengers series.
This is where the F1 Esports Challengers competition fits in. The top six from each platform – PC, PS4 and Xbox One – qualify for the Pro Exhibition. Any one of the 18 drivers who get through could in theory become part of an F1 Esports Pro Series team to compete later in the year, which is why finishing high up the points standings is crucial.
Those in the Pro Exhibition alongside the successful Challengers competitors include one spot from the new Women’s Wildcard and an entrant from the F1 Esports Series China Championship. The format for this event is yet to be revealed, but we hear that it’s going to feature lots of different aspects with more variety when compared to recent years.
In addition, there will be drivers who have qualified via the global DHL Time Trial which is currently active within the F1 2020 game for those invited.
At the very least, 18 drivers will be part of the Pro Exhibition process, and the F1 Esports Challengers series is a big contributor to that line-up.
The Challengers season so far
This current F1 Esports Challengers championship kicked off in December last year. With the final round now upon us, Alessio Di Capua heads the PC contingent, Domenico Lovece is ahead on PS4 and Kedon Lutt is the top Xbox One contender.
The points table doesn’t tell the whole story, however.
“The racing has been exceptional this season,” explains Justin. “On PC, only one person has won more than once and the PS4 championship leader hasn’t even won a race yet. I’ve witnessed five different winners on each platform.
“The stand-out moves for me were a double overtake into the Tarzanbocht at Zandvoort, which was incredible, and two outside moves at Suzuka; one at the first corner and one around 130R akin to Alonso on Schumacher.”
It’s all decided tonight
With the top five yet to be settled on any of the platforms and just one event left to try and qualify for the F1 Esports Pro Draft, the drivers will be putting everything on the line this week.
You can join Justin and watch all the action live Formula 1’s main Twitch channel, or catch the full post-race replays on F1 Games from Codemasters YouTube channel at a later date. Don’t miss out on some competitive F1 2020 racing action and find out who makes the cut.