F1 ESports Virtual Grand Prix series has been announced as an alternative to the postponed grand prix races due to COVID-19 pandemic.

As more and more F1 races gets postponed/cancelled, ESports has taken centerstage with stars like Lando Norris and Max Verstappen taking active participation. In order to fill in the gap, Formula 1 has initiated its own championship.

Dubbed as ‘F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix Series, the first event will take place this weekend on March 22 as a replacement to the Bahrain GP. It will be broadcasted live from Gfinity ESports arena – or remotely if needed – from 8 PM GMT.

Host of current F1 drivers and virtual starts will join in remotely where they will use the official F1 2019 PC video game. The Bahrain GP will be raced for 28 laps after qualifying and will be available to watch on Youtube, Twitch and Facebook.

The series will continue until the end of May and can be extended if the 2020 F1 season doesn’t get off from June. Since Dutch GP does not feature in the 2019 game, they will replace it with a different track. The full line-up will be announced later on.

The grand prix is for entertainment and no points will be awarded. On non-weekends, F1 will host exhibition races, where winners of those will get a chance to go one-on-one with the real drivers. The release also adds about the technical details:

“Due to the wide variety of gaming skill levels amongst the drivers, game settings will be configured in such a way to encourage competitive and entertaining racing. This includes running equal car performance with fixed setups, reduced vehicle damage, and optional anti-lock brakes and traction control for those less familiar with the game.”

Julian Tan, Head of Digital Business Initiatives and Esports said: “We are very pleased to be able to bring some light relief in the form of the F1 Esports Virtual GP, in these unpredictable times, as we hope to entertain fans missing the regular sporting action.

“With every major sports league in the world unable to compete, it is a great time to highlight the benefits of esports and the incredible skill that’s on show.” At the same time, Frank Sagnier, Chief Executive Officer, Codemasters added:

“We’re excited to be a part of the new F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix Series. With sporting events currently on hold around the world, it’s great that the official Formula 1 video game can help fill the void by bringing together an exciting line-up of talent to race online during the postponed race weekends.

“It’s going to be competitive, action-packed, and a lot of fun for everyone involved.” And finally, John Clarke, Gfinity Chief Executive Officer stated: “Gfinity is proud to be playing its part in the design and delivery of the F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series, which will bring exciting virtual racing to a legion of Formula 1 and Esports fans around the globe.

“The virtual Bahrain GP will feature all the thrills and spills of racing with F1 drivers and special guest celebrities going head-to-head, which promises to put a smile back on the faces of millions of sports fans.”

UPDATE: Here’s the full line-up who will be racing in Bahrain. F1 confirmed that Sky Sports will broadcast the race as well:

Alfa Romeo: Cyanide and Johnny Herbert

AlphaTauri (will race as Toro Rosso): Luca Salvadori and Sadokist

FDA Hublot Esports Team (Ferrari): Robert Shwartzman and Dino Beganovic

Haas: Anthony Davidson and Redeye

McLaren: Lando Norris and Nic Hamilton

Mercedes: Esteban Gutierrez and Stoffel Vandoorne

Racing Point: Jimmy Broadbent and Nico Hulkenberg

Red Bull: Sir Chris Hoy (cyclist) and Philipp Eng

Renault: Guanyu Zhou and Ian Poulter (golf player)

Williams: Liam Payne (singer) and Nicholas Latifi

Here’s Nicholas Latifi in self-isolation

Here’s news on F1 deferring 2021 regs to 2022

Here’s confirmation on Dutch and Spain postponement, Monaco cancelled

Here’s the latest from Vietnam GP about tickets

Here’s news on early F1 shutdown