F1 eSports really started to take off during the COVID-19 lockdown with incredibly close racing combined with rivetting team tactics and clever pit stops and tyre strategies. Some drivers made huge sacrifices by putting their studies on hold while others put their careers on hold just to make time to practice and race in high-level leagues like PSGL and WOR all in preparation for the official F1 eSports Championship.
History of the series
The series was founded in 2017 and British driver Brendon Leigh was crowned as the inaugural champion. Brendon went on to win the championship again in 2018 with David Tonizza winning it in 2019. Jarno Opmeer took the crown in 2020 and 2021 with Lucas Blakeley finally reaching his potential by becoming champion in 2022.
Besides the online format that took place in 2020 and 2021, the other championships were held in arenas with drivers racing each other in identical sim rigs with huge crowds present to cheer them on.
Races were broadcast live with huge viewership and it seemed like the series was set to explode and eclipse every other sim racing championship.
What went wrong?
Even though the championship is an official Formula 1-sanctioned event, it was actually run by ESL for the 2023/2024 championship season with the first race weekend held in the expected high-quality aren-style venue with a huge crowd of fans and broadcast to a big YouTube audience. Thomas Ronhaar, the highly controversial driver that both fans and other esports drivers love to hate, won the event and put any thoughts of further allegations of cheating to bed.
We all assumed that this was a successful event and couldn't wait for the next one. However, not long before the next event, social media started to indicate that all was not well with F1 eSports with drivers not receiving tickets to fly to the next event and being left essentially in the dark.
It quickly became clear that the next event was not going to take place and the F1 eSports 23/24 Championship died a sudden death. Rumours seem to point to issues with the server/network setup as well as problems with the organisers.
What happens now?
For us, the rumours are irrelevant, What we're concerned with is how such a high-level event could fall apart so quickly and how it will affect sim racing in general. It could be that Round 2 could still happen or, more likely that the rest of the championship will be cancelled and maybe Thomas Ronhaar declared winner.
This is a horrible situation and we hope that ESL figure something out soon. We hope that the sudden suspension of the championship doesn't mean the end of F1 eSports as we know it. F1 23 and the F1 series from EA are not really suited to eSports with its many, many issues. Maybe this was a contributing factor or maybe ESL bit off more than they could chew with ESL R1 to manage as well.
Either way, it looks bad and places sim racing in a very unfavourable light.
Hopefully, this situation gets sorted out soon and the 23/24 Season Championship resumes. However, at the time of writing this article, no further information is available and there are no signs of F1 Esports coming back. Even if the championship gets cancelled, we think that the drivers, the fans and everyone else deserve, at minimum an explanation of what went wrong.