Formula 1 esports is set for another big year in 2018, with all but one F1 team signing up for the new season and the Pro Draft stage now complete, teams are finally gearing up for the 2018 esports series.
McLaren, one of the premier brands in Formula 1 is one of the most active members of the esports community already. Not only will they compete in this seasons esports series but the company continues to embrace esports outside of F1 with the launch of their own Shadow Project. The series will feature an open qualifying series across a number of games on three different platforms.
We had a chance to speak to Ben Payne, Director of esports at McLaren, about what drives the team forward and what fans can look forward to in 2018 and beyond.
Esports Insider: What made you join McLaren esports?
Ben Payne: The opportunity to be the first esports employee in Formula 1 was too big of a draw to turn down. To have seen the finale of World’s Fastest Gamer in my first few days was incredible and to work at a company like McLaren is inspiring on a daily basis. Being able to now present McLaren Shadow Project to our fans and the wider racing esports world is very exciting.
ESI: McLaren was the first team to announce their involvement in esports, do you think that has helped you establish more?
Ben: Yeah, I’d say so. Our teams are more accustomed to how this all works now which allows us to be more agile and take risks without the toe-dipping concerns of those doing this for the first time. It’s helped us a great deal as we’ve worked through planning for McLaren Shadow Project.
ESI: What are the aims of McLaren esports and how does the McLaren F1 ethos impact your esports team?
Ben: Our aims are to run the most diverse and dynamic racing esports programme in the world. It’s bigger and broader than last year, allowing fans of McLaren and racing as a whole to have more ways to engage with the programme, be it participation or spectating. Through this programme, we’ll find a member of our esports team and
hopefully unearth more talent like Rudy van Buren who’s beaten Le Mans winners on the track this year. I’m excited to see how it goes.
“We look forward to seeing how McLaren Shadow Project grows in the future.”
ESI: What does the Shadow Project mean for McLaren?
Ben: It just reaffirms that we are the only Formula 1 team working uniquely in the space of esports. Esports is a long-term strategic focus for McLaren and we look forward to seeing how McLaren Shadow Project grows in the future.
ESI: You attended the F1 esports draft what do you hope to gain from these events, apart from getting the best drivers, of course?
Ben: I hope to see evidence of how our industry is taking esports seriously to the benefit of the sport and the audiences involved. I want to see a lot of very focused racers keen to impress us as potential teams who are also able to enjoy the experience. I also expect to see a number of peers keeping their cards close to their chest as we finalise our plans moving forward after the draft.
ESI: What does the future hold for McLaren esports?
Ben: I think the future is very bright for esports at McLaren. We’ll go race as a team later this year and then post our McLaren Shadow Project Finals in January of 2019 we’ll have a bigger roster of talent to go racing online globally against the very best. It’s a very exciting time for us.
ESI: Do you have any closing words?
Ben: Not beyond visiting mclaren.com/esports for more information. It’s going to be a great