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F1 Esports… Ever heard of it? Ever watched it? No? Well, I bet you know the F1 games!

Personally, F1 Esports has been following me around for quite a while now, which is why I am happy to finally bring you up to speed with this very special Sim Racing Series. The Formula One Esports Series is a professional Esports Programme, which Formula One promotes. It came to life in 2017 to engage the F1 Game and its community into the sport that is F1. Since 2018 each official F1 team also has their own F1 Esports Team to participate in the F1 Esports Championship. Just as in real life, there is a driver champion and a team champion. Last year, we saw Jarno Opmeer becoming the 2020 F1 Esports Champion and Red Bull Racing Esports taking home the team championship trophy back to back with Marcel Kiefer, Frede Rasmussen and Tino Naukkarinen.

In this 2021 season, we look at some changes in the driver lineup and the drafting process. As always, there are 30 seats available for the championship, three for each team, b this year, the F1 Esports Qualifying reaches a record high in participation numbers. So how does that work? And who is even up for being drafted? One of the biggest changes has to be the introduction of the Women’s Wildcard. It was designed to bring the fastest female sim racers into the mix by making the qualifying process a bit more open and accessible for them and showing that there is an interest in seeing all genders on track! With Rebecca Morrell, we saw absolute girl power! She smashed her entry lap and won the Women’s Wildcard spot in the Pro Exhibition Show, which brings us to the second change. For the first time in 2021, we got to see the Pro Exhibition last Thursday as part of the drafting process! We got introduced to the so-called “Pro Rank”, which is supposed to benefit all drivers that are eligible for selection. Every driver part of the 2020 Pro Series automatically got the Pro Rank, so if a team decides to keep their driver, nothing is holding them back. Drivers who are released from their contracts are then back in the mix and available to be drafted. But what is this new Pro Exhibition Show? Basically, it is a series of challenges that are testing all the new drivers to their limit. Everyone who completes the Show will gain the Pro Rank Status and can be drafted by one of the teams later in the year.

There are four challenges in total which are:
Race-craft – which is an in-game event hosted in F1 2020, with all drivers eligible to take part
Ghost Race: Dry – all collisions are turned off so that the ultimate pace can be reached without dirty
air, blocking and overtaking
Ghost Race: Wet – same as above but this time there is the weather in the mix, to test the
adaptability and precision of each driver
Head to Head – this one is testing the driver’s nerves under pressure, best-of-three knockout
qualifying

Since F1 Esports is not that well known so far, let me give you a quick summary of what happened during the Pro Exhibition Show and who you should keep an eye out for this season. We got to see some nice interviews with great Esports personalities during the whole show, one of which was non-other than Cem Bolukbasi, who used to race in F1 Esports back in 2017/2018. Cem is mostly known for having made the step from sim racing into real racing. He shows how much is possible, and therefore he sure is the greatest ambassador F1 Esports could have asked for. One of the interesting things he mentioned was how the 110% AI challenge is definitely not a joke, even if you are in a fast car. Flaws are just impossible there because the game is very different from reality when it comes to track limits. We then got to see a “Best of the Best” race, where some of last year’s F1 Esports drivers showed their talent in the four Pro Exhibition challenges. We saw Dani Moreno dominating the Bahrain dry race, which came unexpectedly to me, but it seems like his move to Mercedes AMG F1.

Esports Team did him good. Very excited to see how he performs next to last year’s champion Jarno Opmeer, who also moved to Mercedes earlier this year. Last year’s runner up, the China wet race, was dominated by Frede Rasmussen, who finished that race 4 seconds clear of the other drivers. As expected, he and Marcel Kiefer will stay with Red Bull Racing Esports for another season after their incredible teamwork in 2020. Another guy that I’m looking forward to seeing on track is two times F1 Esports Champion Brendon Leigh, who left Mercedes and moved on to Ferrari. My hopes are high to see him getting some redemption this season, and so far, it looks quite promising. After the “Best of the Best” showcase being done and dusted, we finally got to hear from Jarno Opmeer himself. It sounds like people have high hopes for him to win the 2021 driver championship back to back. And it sure seems possible. He himself is very realistic and down to earth about it and mentions how every driver has to find their own formula of what works best. I personally am very excited to see another fight between him and Frede Rasmussen, hopefully. Still, I can imagine Marcel Kiefer joining that mix a bit more this year since he has proven to be more than ready to take on the title fight.

But who are the new guys and girls? One that I am looking at is Sebastian Job, who has already
been working a great deal for Red Bull Racing Esports, becoming the 2020 Porsche Esports Supercup Champion. I expect him to take Patrik Holzmann’s seat at Alpha Tauri, but I am always up for surprises. Another name that has already been on people’s minds is Josh Idowu, who has worked with Veloce Esports quite a lot in the past. He became fascinating for Mclaren Shadow and is expected to race for them in this year’s F1 Esports championship. Samuel Libeert, already well known from previous Pro Drafts, is also signed with R8G Esports, the team owned by Romain Grosjean. He is definitely one to look out for as well during
this year’s drafting process.

Two more names that I don’t want to leave unmentioned are Yuan Yifan, the winner of the Chinese F1 Esports championship and the runner up Tang Tianyu. Both were absolutely dominating in China. However, there are quite a few gaps between them and the top drivers of the world. Non the less I think they are strong contenders, and I am hopeful for them to be picked in this year’s draft.

What does one look for in an F1 Esports driver? Being interviewed, Romain Grosjean describes that they have to be fast because that is the essence of racing and be very consistent and have great communication. Also, they need to be able to represent a brand. Basically quite similar to actual F1 drivers. However, a huge difference is that an F1 Esports driver needs to be talented with setups, getting the absolute most out of their car. After having seen all drivers complete the challenges of the Pro Exhibition Show, here are my conclusions.

Josh Idowu looked super consistent, which is very promising. Alessio di Capua looked very strong, not too far off the time Dani Moreno set as a benchmark. He sure had a great speed there. A surprise to me was Patrik Sipos, who showed great adaptability. Sebastian Job had a bit of a rough start but then really showed some great pace. Rebecca Morrell, our Women’s Wildcard winner, was not too far off the top times and showed great adaptability as well. I am sure she will grow with experience! Gabriel Meneghetti did an incredible job, dominating the Xbox Leaderboard, and Valentin Büffer and Liam Parnell looked very strong in the PS4 challenges. Thijmen Schütte, as we know by now, is officially signed with Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen Esports and completes their lineup together with Filip Presnajder and Simon Weigang!

So, what is left for me to say? I am very excited to see who will be picked for the teams during
these next few months. There are some powerful sim racers in the draft this season.
Apart from that: I know F1 Esports might not be just like real racing, but believe me, these guys are fighting just as hard, and the on-track action is just as exciting. Give it a chance, as I will take you along the 2021 F1 Esports season here on Grid Talk.

IndyCar and Formula One aren’t that different, right? Racing in circles, some of the fastest drivers in the world speeding through circuits at over 200mph? Wrong.

Both elite racing series in their own right, I’m here to bring you the essential guide for watching IndyCar ahead of their doubleheader in Texas this weekend.

Drivers

In IndyCar, there is no limit on how many or how few drivers can race for each team; for example, Max Chilton returns to Carlin for his fifth season in IndyCar this year and is the only entry for the team. Compared to Team Penske, who has four entries, a solid line-up, I must add.

There are some incredible names in IndyCar. Championships everywhere. Two-time IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden, current reigning six-time IndyCar Series champion and Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon, to name a few. As well as some exciting talent in Pato O’ward, who is returning with Arrow McLaren SP after an incredible season in 2020. Let’s not forget that Romain Grosjean is beginning his IndyCar career, too, with Dale Coyne Racing this year, racing in all of the street and road courses for the team.

Circuits

IndyCar is known for its astounding, diverse circuits. These drivers race on road and street circuits to short ovals and long ovals. This season will feature 3 ovals and 14 road or street courses. Even more amazing is the ability to configure the cars between these three types of track, from brake ducts to front and rear wings; these changes are there to bring the best setup for each car.

The Car

Dallara is the exclusive chassis supplier for IndyCar, it’s made of carbon fibre and other composites and weighs around 1700lbs or 770kg. Chevrolet and Honda are the two engine suppliers in the series, giving competitors 2.2-litre turbocharged V-6 engines that produce an estimated 550-700 horsepower depending on the type of track.

In Formula One, the cars have the halo. In IndyCar, it’s the aeroscreen. This is a new safety innovation that provides extra driver cockpit protection. It was only introduced into the sport last season. There was a lot of controversy surrounding this new feature. However, endless testing reported it doesn’t make any difference in speed, the temperature in the cockpit and drivers visibility. The Aeroscreen comes with tear-offs like drivers helmets in case it gets dirty – this would be done in the pits if needed. In terms of extraction, in case of a car overturning, endless investigations from the AMR IndyCar Safety Team have been implemented and have proven no difference in extracting.

Tyres

Again, just like Formula One, IndyCar has a sole tyre provider. In F1, it’s currently Pirelli, but in Indy, they use Firestone. These tyres are specifically engineered for the type, of course, they’ll be used on. Oval tracks will use just one type of tyre, whilst road and street circuits can use all three types – primary, alternate and rain. Primary tyres (black) offer a balance between speed and cornering. These tyres can be used on all 3 types of circuit. The Alternate (red) tyres have a softer compound, allowing faster speeds but quicker wear, so these tyres are to be used on road and street tracks only. Of course, we have rain tyres. These were developed for wet conditions and use a grooved tread pattern that improves grip and control in those tricky conditions; again, these are only used on street and road courses.

Pit Stops

IndyCar pit stops can’t be that different to Formula One, can they? The answer: YES! Unlike F1, where around 16 team members assist during a pit stop, only six crew members are allowed ‘over the wall’ during a stop. These include four tyre changes, a fueler and the person responsible for the air jack – a few of these crew members have several roles, like the inside rear tyre changer also helps push the car out of the pits after changing the tyre. Whether they are over the wall or not, each crew member must wear fire suits, fire-resistant footwear, fire-resistant gloves, and helmets. During a typical pit stop, the crew will change the four tyres, add 18.5 gallons of Speedway E85R and make adjustments in less than 10 seconds.

Race Weekend Format

Buckle in; this might get confusing! The format of race weekends changes from race to race. However, the most common is that there are two practice sessions on the Friday, practice and qualifying on a Saturday, and the race on a Sunday – with an additional warm-up session at the road and street courses.

Oval Qualifying: For oval circuits, each car is permitted two warm-up laps before the timed qualification laps. Then, they are allowed two consecutively timed laps. The aggregate time is recorded, and the fastest time earns the pole position – simple!

Road/Street Qualifying: This is broken into three segments to narrow down the field to determine the pole winner progressively. In the first segment, there will be two groups determined by the top time of each car in the final practice session. Each of the two groups receives ten minutes of track time, with the fastest lap by each car determining its qualifying position. The six fastest cars from each group advance to segment two; twelve cars receive another ten minutes of track time again, with the fastest lap determining their qualifying position. The fastest six cars from this group will then go into the Firestone Fast Six shootout (sounds fancy, huh?) The final six cars receive six minutes of track time to get the fastest lap and gain that pole position.

In terms of the race itself, the amount of laps determines race to race. Each race begins with a rolling start in two wide or three wide alignments during the final parade lap. Something else worse mentioning for the race is Push-To-Pass. It’s used in IndyCar on road and street circuits since 2009. It gives drivers a short horsepower boost that assists with overtaking.

Point Scoring

Unlike Formula One, in IndyCar, you are given points for all finishing positions. First – 50 points, second – 40 points, third – 35 points and so on. The lowest amount of points you can get in IndyCar for finishing is 5. There are also extra points up for grabs; pole position gives you an extra 1 point, leading at least one lap, you also get an extra point, and most laps led gets you a cheeky extra 2.

I hope I’ve provided you with all the information you need to tune into the IndyCar Genesys 300 and the IndyCar XPEL 375 this weekend!

I’ve given you the reasons why you should watch Formula E, and you’ve decided to give it a go, but now you’re wondering, “Charley, what actually is Formula E?” Well, don’t you worry, here is my Formula E Guide to give you all the information you need for this weekend’s doubleheader in Rome.

Like everything, there are rules and regulations to keep the sport from being absolute chaos. So, what are the hard fast rules of Formula E? Let’s break it down.

Race Format
Like Formula 1, there is practice, and qualifying sessions are very different from the format we are used to. Formula E has two practice sessions, an opening 45-minute session followed by a further 30-minute session. However, this is reduced when it’s a weekend doubleheader to just one 45 minute practice session on the second day. Like F1, this is the first time that teams and drivers will take to track and get a feel for their lap times. It is just a practice session, so nothing from these sessions count towards the final result.

Now, qualifying in Formula E is quite different – If you’re like me and dislike change, it does take a little while to get used to. Firstly, the qualifying session lasts an hour, and the drivers are divided into four groups of six cars, which is defined by their position in the championship. Once that group is out on track, the drivers have six minutes to set their time and obviously, be the fastest. Once all the groups have had their runs, the top six drivers proceed to the Super Pole shoot-out in a bid to secure the Julius Baer Pole Position and an additional three points (we’ll talk about that later). During the Super Pole, the drivers go out one by one, with the sixth-fastest driver going out first and so on.

It’s worth noting that between both the practice and qualifying sessions, 250kW is available throughout.

We have our grid, and we’re ready to race. So how does a typical E-Prix work? The drivers line up on a dummy grid, a short distance behind their grid slot, to slowly file into before the race. A standing start, meaning the cars are stationary until the lights go green. Every E-Prix is 45 minutes plus a lap.

The lights go out, and Formula E offers incredible racing from start to finish; from the 2018/2019 season, Attack Mode was introduced into the series. This lets every driver pick up an extra 35kW of power at their own risk to get their attack mode – it requires the driver to steer off the racing line and through the activation zone. It does usually pay off. It gives drivers that extra edge to keep ahead of any competition. On top of that, there’s Fanboost. This gives you the chance to impact the race. This has had some negative feedback from fans of the sport, saying that it’s ‘gimmicky’ – it gives fans the chance to gift their favourite driver with a significant boost of power, which they can deploy in a five-second window during the second half of the race. Only five drivers get this honour.

The majority of races take place over a single day to minimise disruption to the host city.

Championship, Standings, and Points
Again, just like Formula 1, the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship consists of two separate titles. One, which is dedicated to the driver, and the other that is dedicated to the teams. The drivers’ championship is awarded to whichever driver has racked up the most points throughout the season, simple! The team’s championship is decided by calculating their driver’s scores. In terms of these points, Formula E follows a standard points system used in other FIA series – awarding points to the top 10 finishers. As mentioned earlier, additional points are also rewarded for getting Pole Position and the fastest lap in the race.

Other Things To Mention
Charging the car is not allowed during both qualifying and the race, and throughout parc ferme.
The Formula E cars use 18-inch treaded all-weather tyres used by every single team which Michelin supplies.

So there we go! A quick-fire guide to Formula E, now you have absolutely no reason not to watch. I feel like I could be hired to turn fans to the electric side (Formula E, if you’re reading this, I am available)

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