Lockdown has been kind to esports, which have helped to fill the gap left in the schedule by the cancellation or postponement of various other sports.
Among the events set up to keep fans entertained through the coronavirus crisis were virtual Formula One races, with Veloce Esports at the forefront.
With the pandemic making real Formula One races impossible – various people working within the sport tested positive for COVID-19 – Veloce stepped in with its Not The Aus GP.
Held on what was set to be the opening weekend of the season and using the F1 2019 game by Codemasters on PC, the virtual GP garnered a great deal of attention.
Although the event was thrown together at short notice, the involvement of people including former F1 drivers Esteban Gutierrez and Stefan Vandoorne helped to make it a smash hit.
Veloce Esports’ founder Jamie MacLaurin told The Loadout that the race had “had 175,000 live concurrent viewers across all the streams”, including on Twitch.
He added: “They were probably the busiest few days of our lives to be honest, running around trying to sort drivers out, but we pulled together a grid. We didn’t want to try and mimic the real race and make it super serious. We wanted to keep it casual and lighthearted, so that people who were maybe new to esports or new to F1 could come and watch it and leave with a smile on their face, given the circumstances in the world right now.”
It was certainly a success, with the race the most-watched video on the Veloce Esports YouTube channel, having racked up more than 400,000 views so far.
Veloce’s strong links to motorsport
It should not have been a surprise to see Veloce launch a virtual F1 event during lockdown as the company has long been closely associated with the world of motorsport.
The company was founded by Rupert Svendsen-Cook and Jack Clarke – a pair of international racing drivers – along with MacLaurin and Formula E racer and ex-F1 driver Jean-Eric Vergne.
Veloce is not just a professional gaming team, however, as the company also operates as an eports consultancy agency. Its growth has been impressive considering it launched in 2018.
Last year saw Veloce secure investment from Eric Tveter, who became the first chairman of the organisation. The arrival of Tveter, who used to have a top executive role at telecommunications company Liberty Global, led to a spike in the valuation of the company.
“Veloce Esports has already established itself as a leading player in the racing and general esports space,” he said in a statement. “Veloce has forged an enviable and focused market position for growth and value creation in the exploding $1.1 billion esports arena.”
More recently, Veloce landed a partnership with McLaren Racing in order to expand its esports offering. Benjamin “Tiametmarduk” Daly, a top sim racing influencer, joined McLaren as part of the deal with Veloce.
“We are incredibly proud and look forward to building a full-scale esports ecosystem with McLaren,” said Clarke, the chief commercial officer for Veloce Sports.
What’s next for Veloce Sports?
Veloce is involved in various esports, but Rocket League will no longer be among them. Last month, it was confirmed that the company was dropping its Rocket League roster.
This was despite the fact Veloce was third in the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) Season Eight – Europe and the esports organisation also placed highly in events including the RLCS Season 8 Finals and RLCS Season Nine – Europe.
“All good things come to an end, and for now, our Rocket League journey ends here,” Veloce posted on Twitter last month.
One concern for the company could be the impact of the F1 virtual grand prix schedule, which appeared to draw attention away from existing esports offerings in the motorsport arena.
Over a million people watched the first race of the F1 Esports Pro Series 2019, but numbers for more recent Pro Exhibition events have been a lot lower.
With celebrities having been taking part in the official Virtual Grand Prix races run by Formula One, people have seemingly been more interested in how famous faces perform behind the wheel rather than tuning in to see esports specialists race.
Veloce will be among the companies plotting a path through motorsport’s esports future.