The F1 Esports scene has rocketed in popularity in the last couple of years, with F1 teams signing drivers to race for them and a prize pot worth half a million US dollars. And it seems Esports could move from pure entertainment to helping the sport out directly, with F1’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds suggesting they could be used to try out new rules.
Suggestions recently to improve F1 have included reverse grids and sprint races, and with F1’s history of introducing new regulations that don’t last long, it could be a good idea to try things out in the virtual world.
In 2016, F1 introduced a new qualifying format that saw drivers eliminated every 90 seconds, but it was a disaster and scrapped after two races, so Symonds believes the Esports community could help out the rule makers in these situations.
He said at the 2020 Autosport International: “What’s difficult is the human part. One of the models we’ve run is we’ve looked at whether the grid formation that we have at the moment, which is the staggered eight-metre grid, whether that’s the right way to do it.
“If you want to investigate what would be the effect of a two-by-two grid, physics will tell you that the cars will all make the same start, they’ll all arrive at the first corner in the same order. But that’s not the way it really is.
“We need to understand, well, will we actually get a more exciting first lap, or will we just get a lot of accidents? We obviously don’t want to wipe out half the field on the first lap. The only way you can do that is the human in the loop thing.
“The teams have humans in the loop, driver in the loop simulators, but they are looking for peak performance. We’re looking for something different.
“What I’m hoping at the end of this year is that we’ll use some of our elite gaming racers from our Esports series to actually test out some of our ideas for sporting regulation changes.”