(Reuters) – Formula One launched an esports series across China on Thursday with the promise of the top two local gamers making it all the way to the Pro Draft stage of next year’s virtual world championship.
The sport’s 10 teams all compete in the F1 Esports series and take one racer each from the final 30 at the Pro Draft event, adding to existing gamers on their rosters.
The China championship starts on Aug. 4 in Shanghai and will feature regional qualifications and finals with the best 100 going through to a Grand Final at the end of the year.
The eventual champion and runner-up qualify for the 2020 F1 Esports Pro Draft.
Some 109,000 gamers from 156 countries entered this year’s global qualifying competition, with the 2019 Pro Draft taking place in London last week..
“China is an incredibly important market to Formula One and we believe there is massive potential to grow the passion for motorsport and cultivate the love for F1 as a sport in this region through F1 Esports,” said Formula One’s esports head Julian Tan.
“We want to engage with them in new and innovative ways and esports is a powerful tool to do that.”
Formula One has held a grand prix in Shanghai since 2004 and has talked about adding a second Chinese street race to the calendar.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Sudipto Ganguly)