The F1 Esports scene has been growing and growing since Brendon Leigh was crowned the inaugural champion back in November 2017.
The most recent step in F1 Esports, the Pro Exhibition, saw more than 490,000 players attempt to qualify for the pinnacle of virtual Formula 1. The at-home audience has been growing too, with the 2020 season seeing more than 11 million live stream views.
Part of the added appeal to the 2020 season was longer races, with the drivers taking on a unique 35% race distance. With F1 2021 just around the corner, can players expect to enjoy the new race length themselves? We asked Franchise Director Lee Mather about it.
A much-needed bridge
Most F1 players run their saves on a 25% or 50% distance, but both of these have their draw backs. While 25% races are usually a comfortable 25-minute affair they don't really allow for much strategy to play out or for recovery drives from a first corner spin to happen.
Whereas 50% races do have the potential for more tyre strategy and less punishing mistakes, they can be up to 50 minutes if you get a wet race or unlucky with safety cars. Not everyone can guarantee a window that big to race in.
Which is where the 35% distance comes in. These races created undercut windows that were then deeply impacted by tyre wear at the end of the stint. They made life a little trickier for the drivers when it came to managing ERS. And it all fitted into a good 35-ish minute window.
Will 35% races be on F1 2021?
When asked about the option coming to the full release of F1 2021 Franchise Director Lee Mather said no. But he did suggest that isn't a permanent no.
"It's something that we might consider potentially adding in the future. Maybe as a post-launch thing on in a following title. It's not as straight-forward as it appears."
Mather went on to tell us just why it is more complicated than you may think to add the option.
"In an esports environment where there is no AI involved it's not a problem, but when you consider the data churn for each car to understand how to handle that distance it becomes a significantly larger task."
"But as I say, if it's something that we get a lot of call for it's certainly something we'll consider looking at for the future."
Mather sounded like a fan of the distance though, saying: "For the way in which it was being used as an esports platform it really added to the experience."
It's definitely something we would love to see get opened up to everyone in the future.
F1 2021 release date
The official Formula 1 game has a release date of 16 July.
However, for those keen to dive into the game as early as possible, the Deluxe Edition comes with three days early access. That means you can go racing from 13 July, as well as enjoying a raft of other amazing benefits.