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In the absence of live sporting events, many sports tournaments and leagues have gone online with the intention of keeping fans engaged and providing them with content. In soccer, for example, the Premier League organized a FIFA tournament, where each club was represented by one of their players. They played against each other virtually from their homes, with the matches streamed live on the likes of YouTube and Twitch. Similarly, we have seen the NBA come up with the NBA 2K Live series. NBA teams have their own online gaming teams set up, with the best NBA gamers from over the world being drafted and then competing against each other in a regular-season and playoff format akin to the actual NBA. There have also been live poker and live casino online sessions, with some of these being used to raise money for charity and COVID-19 relief efforts.
It’s clear most sports have been trying to do something or the other online so that their fans remain entertained. Formula One has not been a stranger to these efforts, either.
Formula One has been hosting a series of virtual Grand Prixs, on the F1 2019 racing simulator game, with a host of actual Formula One drivers participating. The game is ultra-realistic, and so it gives drivers the chance to get some practice done in settings which are not too dissimilar from the actual race-day environment. At the same time, celebrities and athletes from other sports have also taken part, such as England cricketers Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad along with Italian footballer Alessio Romagnoli. With the likes of Charles Leclerc, Alex Albon, Max Verstappen and George Russell participating, these races have been as star-studded as the real-life ones. However, the undisputed king of the track at the moment, Lewis Hamilton, has been spending his time on a different game.
Lewis Hamilton has been an ambassador for the Gran Turismo racing game franchise for a few years now. He recently said that he has been spending a lot of time on the game trying to beat his own lap times. The Lewis Hamilton Time Trial Challenge, in the Gran Turismo game, features a ‘ghost’ Mercedes car for users to be able to mimic racing against Hamilton and try to beat his time. Along with Gran Turismo, the six-time Formula One world champion has also played the Call of Duty first-person shooter (FPS) game against the likes of fellow F1 drivers Leclerc and Pierre Gasly.
However, while Leclerc has won two of the four official F1 simulated races so far, and the event also recently saw four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel make his debut in the series, Hamilton is not interested in participating. He believes that the driving simulator is very difficult to use as the movement is never perfect, and so he rarely drives on the simulator, even when training. For example, the seat of the driving simulator does not move. So while the visuals may make it seem the car is moving, the movement is not cueing up in the same way. It tends to throw Hamilton off when he gets in the actual car if he has been training on the simulator, which creates a completely different environment. However, while Hamilton sees no benefit on the track from using the simulator, the gaming and fun side of things does appeal to him as he loves being able to play online against friends.
Lewis Hamilton is widely considered one of the most successful racing drivers of all time, having wrapped up his sixth title last season. He was gunning for a record-equalling seventh championship in F1 this season before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted plans.