The Formula One motor-racing championship has extended deals with the organisers and sponsors of its esports series, which will see prize money more than double this year amid expansion plans.
The third edition of the F1 Esports Series will commence on April 8. F1 has renewed its partnership with Codemasters, developer of the sport’s official videogame, and British esports company Gfinity for the 2019 series.
New Balance, the US footwear and lifestyle brand, will remain as title sponsor and will be fully integrated into the series, with all drivers wearing New Balance socks and shoes whilst competing. Gaming equipment manufacturer Fanatec has also extended as an official sponsor.
In 2019, the official F1 teams will compete for more than double the prize money, with $500,000 (€447,000) to be won. Like the 2018 season, which reached a record audience of 5.5 million viewers across selected television networks and a dedicated live stream, this season will be split into Qualifying, a Pro Draft and the Pro Series. However, each segment of the 2019 Series has been expanded.
The expanded season means that at the Pro Series, the official F1 teams and their drivers will now compete in four live events, up from three last year, between September and December. These races will determine the 2019 F1 Esports Series teams’ and drivers’ world champions.
Formula One also said a new and exclusive agreement with Juss Intellisports will bring the series to China for the first time ever. The F1 Esports Series – China Championship will launch in the late summer of 2019. A special event will take place at the 2019 Chinese Grand Prix on April 12-14.
Sean Bratches, managing director of commercial operations at Formula One, said: “Last season was a decisive year for F1 Esports with the inclusion of the first official teams and record audience figures. As we move into this 2019 season, F1 will remain at the forefront of this explosive industry.
“The potential within this space is extremely exciting both as a commercial opportunity, but importantly, as a way for the sport to engage with the next generation of motorsport fans. We are committed to exponential growth in the world of esports, and as a result the 2019 season is going to be even bigger and better. Having more than doubled the prize fund, we plan to attract even more talent to the series and to continue the upward trajectory we are on.”
Garry Cook, executive chairman at Gfinity, added: “Esports fans want it all. They want the back stories, the drivers’ journeys to greatness, the emotion of being chosen to represent an F1 team. And they want to experience daring manoeuvres on the track. F1 New Balance Esports Series delivers this. That is why a new and younger audience is embracing the F1 story. Series 3 is going to be bigger, bolder and more entertaining than ever.”