Gaming & E-Sports in Formula E
Since its inception, gaming has played a central role in the interaction between the Formula E and its fans, especially younger audiences. With eRaces at the E-Prix, mobile gaming offers for smartphones, and collaborations with various developers, Formula E fans have had the opportunity to get behind the virtual wheel of the cars virtually. Additionally, Formula E has already organized two larger-scale e-sports series.
Race at Home Challenge
The "ABB Formula E Race at Home Challenge" was an e-sports series organized by Formula E from April to June 2020 during the season pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. The official regular drivers of the FIA series competed against each other virtually in one group, while professional simracers competed in the other group.
The E-Sports league "Accelerate" consisted of six virtual events from January to March 2021 to bridge the gap until the start of the postponed championship. This time, the focus was mainly on professional simracers and less on the "real" Formula E drivers, who only participated in two races. Furhter editions of the "Accelerate" championship were held in 2022 and 2023.
Vegas eRace: Formula E drivers vs. simracers
The largest eRace in Formula E history took place on January 7, 2017, as part of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The top ten simracers in the world, who had previously qualified, competed in the Vegas eRace on a specially designed virtual track against the 20 then-Formula E drivers, with a share of a $1 million prize pool at stake - the highest sim racing prize pool in history at the time.
Finnish driver Olli Pahkala (Mahindra) initially crossed the finish line as the winner in Las Vegas. However, it was later revealed that his FANBOOST was not disabled after the first activation due to a bizarre technical error. Pahkala lost the win due to the resulting penalty, which was awarded to Bono Huis. The Dutchman, who had dominated all previous sessions for Faraday Future Dragon Racing, not only won the qualifying and prestigious eRace but also the largest share of the prize money, totaling $225,000.
The only Formula E driver to salvage their honor was Mahindra's Felix Rosenqvist. The Swede was competitive from the 1st free practice session and was the only driver who could challenge the simracers in the race. Rosenqvist received a $100,000 prize for his second-place finish.
Formula E simulation in "rFactor 2"
Lovers of more realistic titles will get their money's worth in the "rFactor 2" simulation by "Studio 397". As part of the Energize Pack" DLC, the developer studio released an add-on in 2017 with all the Formula E cars, drivers, and helmet designs. In addition, the Hong Kong street circuit was added to the game. Since then, other tracks have been added, among them the circuits in Rome, Berlin, New York and London or the fictional "Electric Docks" track, based in a US harbor.
In April 2019, the developers released the "Formula E 2019 Car" download package, which can be purchased on the gaming platform "Steam" and also implements the Gen2 cars of the fifth season into the simulation. In April 2023, the "Gen3" car was added. rFactor 2 focuses on pure realism: not only were the chassis modeled, but also the driving behavior of the brake-by-wire system, energy consumption, realistic recuperation, and the weight of the vehicles.
Virtual E-Prix in real time: Official Formula E video game "Ghost Racing"
With "Ghost Racing", Formula E launched its first officially licensed video game on April 26, 2019, in collaboration with the Swiss company Virtually Live, thereby entering direct competition with Codemasters' "F1" series or the NASCAR Heat series by Monster Games. Ghost Racing simulated the tracks and vehicles of Formula E from season 4 (2017/18).
The special feature: In addition to a classic time trial mode, Ghost Racing allows the player to participate in real-time in the actual Formula E races. Through GPS data, precise track scans, and live telemetry, the actual positions of the drivers are mirrored in the game, allowing gamers to virtually participate in the actual E-Prix. There are also scenario game modes where players can relive past real Formula E races.
After the release of the free game for mobile devices, additional versions for PC and console were planned. Smartphone users were able to download Ghost Racing for free from the App Store (iOS devices) and the Google Play Store (Android devices). Due to a lack of interest in the mobile game, though, developers later withdrew the game from download platforms.
Fans vs. Drivers: The eRace on Race Day
Gaming also plays an important role off the track during Formula E race weekends: In the past, at every E-Prix, the Formula E drivers competed in the so-called eRace between the qualifying and the race. They raced on specially set up simulators in the E-Village for three laps, and it was usually a hotly contested race.
Even before the eRace, the simulators were open for visitors to set their own lap times in a time trial before the virtual E-Prix. The two fastest fan drivers were allowed to participate in the eRace and compete against the real drivers. VIP guests of Formula E often also took part in the eRaces.
Until the release of Ghost Racing, the eRaces were based on the game "Real Racing 3", which is available for purchase on Android and iPhone smartphones. The Formula E content is part of an add-on for the mobile gaming title. In recent years, the platform switched to rFactor 2. To this day, the "Gaming Arena" is part of the fan villages near Formula E's circuits, although drivers no longer take part in eRaces.