There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has forced much of the world to stay indoors and at home, prompting the cessation of all kinds of sports events.
Fortunately for race fans, that's not the case. Unlike basketball, baseball, or boxing, motorsport can be done in the virtual world, and drivers from a variety of racing leagues have taken to the web to get their racing fix. One of those is FIA Formula E, the world's top tier all-electric motorsport series, and they're doing it for a cause.
To raise funds for UNICEF, Formula E is logging onto the web with the ABB Formula E Race At Home Challenge, an online race series that will last a total of 9 weeks and will have the two drivers from each team racing against each other. They will be racing on rFactor 2 with special driving rigs meant to simulate the actual driving position of an open-wheel race car.
There will be another grid, this time composed of sim racers from around the world to battle for prizes, up to and including a chance to drive a real Formula E car, hospitality experiences at a Formula E race, and entry into other online racing events.
Nissan is one of the top teams in Formula E right now, and earlier we were able to join an e-meeting with Tommaso Volpe (Nissan Global Motorsport Director) and their two Formula E drivers: Oliver Rowland and 2015-16 Formula E champion Sebastien Buemi.
We asked Volpe if the coronavirus will have an effect on Formula E, and he does expect there to be an impact. But given that Formula E is surging up in popularity, corporate sponsorship, and the rising participation of global car manufacturers, the series appears ideally positioned to weather the storm.
As for the drivers, they seemed eager to get racing again after a rather long hiatus due to the way the pandemic has stopped global motorsport. But we thought we'd have a bit of fun, so we asked the two Nissan Formula E drivers this: If you had the option to challenge any other driver from any other racing series, who would it be?
“Max Verstappen,” said Oliver Rowland, pointing to the Red Bull Racing ace that has 8 grand prix wins to his name.
“Lewis Hamilton,” said Sebastien Buemi, eager to pit his talents against the very best. Hamilton is, in fact, the reigning 6-time F1 driver's champion.
The two previously raced on an F1 grid from 2009 to 2011. Hamilton was in a McLaren-Mercedes at the time while Buemi was in a Toro Rosso; hardly equal in terms of cars and teams.
Online, however, they would be in equal machinery... albeit digital.