FIA Formula 2 launched its first virtual racing event a week ago on the Bahrain International Circuit, in a 50 minutes show broadcasted live on F1’s YouTube and Twitch channels. It is a little-known fact that a lot of effort is put together to make it happen. We discussed with Paul Kent, director of esports at Gfinity, who told us more about the behind the scenes.
Paul, can you present Gfinity?
Gfinity is one of the world's leading esports companies. We design some of the world’s largest esports programmes for sports rights holders such as Formula 1 and the English Premier league to more traditional esports with games such as Counter-Strike, Call of Duty and FIFA. The makeup of Gfinity is very unique having people with over 20 years’ experience in the world of esports but also people with over 20 years of experience working in traditional sports such as the champions league or UFC. This combination allows us to put bespoke world-class products together from ideation to execution and deliver them all over the world from Mexico City to Abu Dhabi or from our own esports studio in London.
Why is organising the F2 virtual races important for your company?
Having been part of F1 esports since its creation Gfinity has long shared a dream with Codemasters to one day host an F2 esports event. The reason for this is because of the importance F2 holds in the motorsport ecosystem. When F2 was added to the excellent game that Codemasters create we were waiting for the perfect opportunity to bring F2 into the world of esports. We never imagined for a second that it would happen under such unfortunate circumstances as the world is now facing. However, it has been amazing to see motorsport drivers all over the world embrace the world of digital motorsports during this time, especially F2 & F3 drivers so it seemed only right to give them their own platform to shine.
When organising a virtual race event such as ours, what does it entail?
Logistically it is a massive challenge given the unique circumstances we currently face in the world. We have to co-ordinate all the drivers and make sure they all have the correct setup to participate. This includes the game, PC and all the associated peripherals. But with our dedicated team and the support from the extended family at F2 and the drivers themselves, this challenge can be overcome. The rest other major part is producing the show, once we have all the drivers with the correct setup we have to make sure that they can all connect to the server hosted at the Gfinity studio and London and our broadcast team can get access to the live camera feeds to give the viewer at home a quality show that they can love and enjoy. As we are currently working to very strict covid-19 policies we have a much smaller team than you would expect working on this production as health and safety of all involved takes priority over everything else.
What is the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is the environmental factors we are currently working in. As we all know these are unprecedented times and although the passion we all share for the sport is the reason we continue to broadcast we can never forget that health of all involved comes first. This, of course, brings incredible challenges but challenges we must embrace. A studio that might normally have upwards of 40 people currently only has a handful.
Were you satisfied with Round 1 and the show the F2 and F3 drivers delivered?
It was an incredible show and the drivers should all be very happy with the racing they delivered for their fans around the world. But as we all know racers only want to win and so we expect to see some amazing battles in the weeks ahead as the drivers get more confident with the virtual cars and tracks.
What is in store for Round 2 this Sunday?
This first show was a great benchmark but we are continually looking at how we can improve every show and I think in the weeks ahead we will start to see more interaction with the drivers so that the fans at home can get closer to them and understand just how much this means to them. We will also start to see all the features fans have come to expect in the world of F2 with instant replays and stats from the grid line-ups to tyre strategies. We are only just beginning.