The anticipation for F1 Esports 2023 was huge, the viewership for the delayed and totally unannounced first race of the year was massive. But once again the season appears to be in jeopardy, with an absurd lack of communication from organisers to teams and the cancellation of the planned event for this weekend.
Event 2 cancelled
After finally getting off the ground with a thrilling race at the end of November, the second event was meant to take place at the end of this week. But with teams in the dark about travel arrangements it was called off at the last minute.
It's a massive disappointment to all involved, especially as the F1 season is now over it was the perfect time to draw new eyes to F1 Esports.
Formula 1 and their new production partners ESL seem to have bitten off far more than they can chew by trying to make a huge LAN event with F1 Esports and the result is a farcical situation of silence, cancellations, and a season on the edge of outright cancellation.
We may never know exactly what is going on behind the scenes but what is clear is that Formula 1 and ESL have completely failed the fans, drivers, and sim racing as a whole.
Esports players skew young, and F1 Esports drivers are no exception. The most experienced drivers on the grid are barely 24 and have poured five-plus years into the series along with countless hours of preparation for this season.
Many drivers have stepped away from schooling and delayed careers to compete at the top of F1 Esports. While the prize pot is usually a substantial $750,000 that only goes so far when there are 30 drivers across 10 teams, each with engineers and support staff working tirelessly behind the scenes.
There is no doubt that the sacrifice has been worth it for a few, but they have been grossly unsupported by Formula 1 when it comes to building this championship up.
There's been little energy and effort from F1 to highlight the talents, personalities, and rivalries within the series or to make stars that draw new eyes. Instead, all promotion of the events, even in previous years, has been left to the existing community.
Despite that lack of consistent spotlight from F1, the viewership of F1 Esports is substantial. Which only serves to highlight the failure of this season even more.
With the whole season in doubt, we could end up with Thomas Ronhaar, victor in the only race so far, being crowned champion and simply see F1 try to hit the reset button on the series.
Or we could see F1 simply abandon this season and the idea of esports entirely, leaving the drivers with nothing but memories for all their countless hours of effort.
F1 Esports is among the biggest sim racing series in the world. With a huge engaged audience, reliable viewership, and notable buzz across social media. To see it simply disappear due to gross mismanagement would be a disaster for the industry as a whole.
But as Marcel Kiefer so eloquently put it, the whole series has been drifting for years now, built on a game that is unsuited for elite esports competition.
The failure of F1 Esports is even more inexcusable when you look at the league racing scene. PSGL runs 20+ tiers of racing, including a top tier featuring esports pros, with expert communication, presentation, and amazing viewership. It's a similar story with WOR and others in the space. Their success only highlights the failure of Formula 1 and ESL to create a flagship championship.
Should F1 Esports collapse, we will at least have a thriving league racing scene for everyone to compete in and watch.
In the end, F1 is a massive machine and esports is a tiny part of it. It won't be Formula 1 that suffers should F1 Esports fail. It will be the drivers who have committed themselves to it, the managers & engineers working behind the scenes who lose their jobs.
F1 Esports can be successful, it can be a shining example of elite competition with talented drivers who, in another life, could have been on the real F1 grid. But the grand vision for F1 Sim Racing in 2023 was clearly not supported by any foundation. From basic planning and communication to marketing and brand management, it has been a tour-de-force of failure.
The fans deserve better. The drivers deserve FAR better. We can only hope 2024 sees improvements.
For more articles like this, take a look at our Esports page.