F1 to Franchise Their Esport: Major Mistake!

Formula One announced today on their website that for their second esport venture they will introduce franchising, making drivers qualify to be drafted by the Formula One teams. The tournament which is set to have a $200,000+ purse attached to it could have just made a catastrophic decision that looks set to impact the whole of simracing and change how we all view racing series coming into simracing.

Image (c) Formula One World Championship Limited
Image (c) Formula One World Championship Limited

I saw this coming. Formula One over the last month or so has made more and more American-styled decisions such as their new theme music to the decision to have a mascot. Looking at the decision to install a franchise system instead of allowing everyone to race under their own banner is a mistake in itself.

F1 have looked at how the NBA go about franchising their esports teams and outside of the United States, it is very difficult to find a good and legitimate example of franchising. Drivers in the Formula One sphere of influence may race hard and showcase what they are capable of, however there is one distinct difference in comparison to what exists currently when it comes to franchising.

TEAMS ALREADY EXIST!!! And I’m not just talking about Coanda and Redline, I talk about teams such as Veloce Esports and FA Racing G2 who under this decision get totally forgotten and cast aside. Even Fernando Alonso can’t sway influence in the line of reasoning that there are already available teams to develop simracing further.

What this decision means is that no team is going to get any publicity for helping to develop a driver. All that development and the organisations that are raced for every single race get thrown out of the window, and that does not help the esport develop. There is a reason why teams like Fnatic, G2, SK Telecom, Samsung Galaxy, Evil Geniuses, Cloud 9, Ninjas in Pyjamas, etc are household names in esports. They are the teams that built the foundations and allowed them to define what their esport was.

This decision tells any simracing team that exists, your team does not matter, we are bigger than you in your own yard. Its criminal that drivers part of major teams would be willing to sacrifice pushing their establishments to go for a bit of money. And while some teams have been better than others, such as McLaren, Renault and what Hype Energy have done to help sponsor the ApexOnlineRacing F1 League, most of these teams don’t have much of an idea about how they are going to march forward with their idea.

f1 esports semi finalists lined up
Hints of franchising was even apparent in F1 esports season 1, where competitors were forbidden from showing simracing team apparel

If I were the team boss of someone like Redline or FA Racing G2, If i were Dom Duhan or Danny Engels, I wouldn’t let my drivers enter. There is minimal commercial benefit to throwing in a driver into a franchised series like this because it will only be the dribs and drabs of people who will filter back to Redline or FA Racing G2. You sell your driver out to a franchise and say, you’re bigger than us, and you’re not going to help us, but I will gladly give you my best talent.

We need to cement ourselves as an industry, not let invasive companies in to run simracing their way and to dictate to us how we race when their experience in the industry is minimal to none at best. 2017’s event was riddled with basic issues that completely detracted from the experience for audience members and drivers alike. There is no regard for our industry or the concerns of the drivers and teams with a decision like this.

And while for some drivers, this is the perfect platform for them, not denying that some people will gain a lot from racing, there are many more issues with this design and idea that this tournament proposes more issues for simracing than actual benefits. Yes I think the prize pool is great, however they have been beaten by Forza in that regard and eclipsed by Formula E. Yes I think that those drivers without teams have a lot to gain by being in an event like this, but is this the way we want our simracing to go?

I’ve been around for over three years in this industry and seen a whole lot of change. The reality though of what we face is F1 trying to steamroll and monopolise the simracing industry by not allowing anybody but their gang moving forward. If F1 wanted to be progressive, they would have actively looked to push the teams that already exist to help grow a meta instead of looking to poison and kill it.

I will be watching this event very intently to see if the drivers and the teams get given the credit and respect that they deserve. The clash of ideals in simracing has now met its most potent crossroads and it is up to us as a community if we want to govern or be governed.


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