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Motor racing - F1 champions Mercedes sign virtual champ for esports team

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By Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes Formula One team launched an esports programme on Tuesday with another British world champion, Brendon Leigh, lined up to compete for them in the virtual world.

Leigh, winner of the inaugural F1 esports championship last year at the age of 18, will be one of four gamers racing for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Esports.

The former kitchen worker from Reading who had not left Britain until he went to Abu Dhabi and won, joins compatriot Harry Jacks, Poland’s Patryk Krutyj and Hungarian Dani Bereznay in the line-up.

Jacks, 24, was a finalist in McLaren’s ‘World’s Fastest Gamer’ competition last year.

Krutyj, 22, is a four-times Polish league winner while Bereznay is an 18-year-old student selected through the F1 Esports series 2018 Pro Draft.

Mercedes, winners of both Formula One titles for the past four years, said the esports team will be based at their Brackley headquarters and have the use of a purpose-built esports training centre.

Construction of the centre, in the same building as a simulator used by the regular F1 drivers, is expected to start in the coming weeks.

“The programme also focuses on human performance and will give the esports team members access to the on-site Performance Centre covering the core areas of nutrition, physical conditioning and wellbeing,” said Mercedes.

The Formula Esports series 2018, using the official F1 game, takes place in October and November involving all of the F1 teams with the exception of Ferrari.

Three live events will decide the virtual drivers’ and teams’ world championships with a prize fund of at least $200,000.

More than 63,000 hopefuls worldwide entered last year’s competition initially by competing in the Codemasters-developed F1 2017 video game on PlayStation4, Xbox One and Windows PC platforms.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)