Coronavirus will forever be an historical event that is talked about for decades to come, especially in motorsport as Formula One, Two and Three prepare to finally launch their 2020 seasons post lockdown.
F1 in particular felt the impact of Coronavirus more than other racing series with the early postponement of the Chinese Grand Prix, where the virus had begun at end of 2019.
Organisers however were hopeful that the season opener in Australia would go ahead as scheduled, until a team member of McLaren tested positive for Coronavirus which forced the race cancellation after fierce discussion between teams and organisers.
Other racing series including IndyCar and NASCAR soon followed in cancelling or postponing various races, which could of deiminated the thought of motorsport in fans as the world battled a ferocious virus.
Sim racing however offered a solution which allowed fans to race against their racing heroes, whilst sponsors also got in on the action as various series launched a Virtual GP series to fill the void, including F1 which pitted celebrities against drivers.
IndyCar in particular excelled with a short iRacing Series containing various circuits from Motegi to Indianapolis, which proved hugely popular with even NBC and Sky Sports airing every race.
A Twitch account however was often required if wanted to watch the stars racing from their own homes live, although a mixture of Twitch and live TV broadcasts was where the money and sponsors came in as they expected drivers to take it seriously.
‘Virtual game at the end of the day…’
Sponsor expectation in virtual racing though ultimately is quite harsh because it is just a virtual game at the end of the day without a need to take it seriously, hence why the ‘salty’ controversy that surrounded the IndyCar iRacing Finale when drivers took one another out in closing stages.
Sponsors however at end of the day have invested money in drivers and justifiably have a right to be annoyed when drivers don’t take it seriously, or instead cheat in Daniel Abt’s case and hired a pro sim racer to represent him in the Formula E virtual series.
Audi Formula E team therefore took serious action in sacking Abt, even after he apologised and claimed that it was a prank in which he would come clean post race, although you can argue that asking a random spectator to race a real car would be worse.
You therefore have to wonder if it was worth sponsors pouring money into these virtual racing series to get themselves extra publicity, especially when many drivers didn’t take sim racing seriously for a variety of reasons.
One incident however highlighted just how serious sim racing is and can have a lasting impact on the real word, when NASCAR’s Kyle Larson was unintentionally heard making a racist slur when he thought his microphone wasn’t working and failed to do “testing, testing…” method to check it over.
NASCAR organisers soon proceeded to suspend Larson with advice of taking a sensitivity class, whilst Chip Ganassi Racing sacked him which led to sponsorship loss as the incident went viral with calls of a permanent ban.
It is worth noting that all this happened before the Black Lives Matter movement began, bringing racial inequality within motorsport into sharp focus.
‘Plenty of positives in sim racing…’
We however saw plenty of positives in sim racing because we all got to watch a virtual version of the sport that we love, and see Lando Norris take on IndyCar with virtual success
Sim Racing also provided us with a glimpse into what drivers can do when in equal machinery and racing at home, which is something that we wouldn’t of been privileged to see if the pandemic hadn’t of forced motorsport into lockdown.
Nevertheless, we are now just hours away from the return of Formula One, Two and Three whilst IndyCar and NASCAR are already back racing again as we hope that we see a return of virtual racing in the off season.
Finally, it is great to see motorsport fans excited again for real-life racing and staying safe, as we remain grateful to key workers who provided vital services throughout this crisis.
Finally, please remember to stay home and save lives now that real-life motorsport is back to keep us entertained, although it is important to get at least one hour of fresh air in order to enrich our lives.