McLaren-Honda car during Formula One race

Formula One team seeks E-Sports champion to test drive racing cars

Image credit: Dreamstime

The former Formula One (F1) world champions, McLaren-Honda, have announced a competition to find the “World’s Fastest Gamer”, with the winner receiving a one-year contract as a simulator driver with the team.

An F1 car must be able to race at speeds of up to hundreds of miles per hour. As real track testing is heavily restricted by regulators, F1 teams rely on simulators to collect data about their cars’ performance. Data from simulated test drives is sent back to a team’s headquarters to determine what adaptations can be made to improve performance.

Hopefuls entering the competition will compete in virtual races on a range of platforms. Four winners will qualify during online virtual racing events this summer, while six other contestants will be chosen by experts within the online racing community. The overall winner will be determined at McLaren’s Technology Centre later this year.

The winner will become one of McLaren’s official F1 simulator drivers, to help improve car design. These responsibilities are usually handled by official reserves. As well as competing across different platforms, contestants will be required to demonstrate their engineering knowledge, teamwork skills and physical and mental capabilities.

Longstanding world champions, McLaren-Honda have been struggling recently with engine reliability and performance issues.

Zack Brown, McLaren technology group executive director, said that the time was right to form a connection between the worlds of racing and gaming.

"The winner will genuinely be a key part of our team at McLaren," he said. "This is for real: we absolutely require additional support across our two simulator platforms."

The initiative makes McLaren the first F1 team to enter the field of E-Sports, or professional gaming. E-Sports tournaments such as The International can offer millions of dollars of prize money. The global E-Sports audience is expected to reach 385 million this year, with the market generating $696 million, according to Newzoo, a market research firm.

Liberty Media, which took over F1 earlier this year, have mentioned gaming as a potential growth area as they seek to expand their audiences.

“Less than one per cent of revenues are from digital,” said Greg Maffei, Liberty Media’s chief executive. “I think there’s a lot of things that can be done around gaming, VR and AR.”

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