The races will feature "a number of current" F1 drivers.
Formula 1 announced today it will replacing its lost race weekends with "virtual" Grands Prix to fill the void caused by the ongoing spread of coronavirus, using its official video game, F1 2019. The races will take place on the same weekends as the original GPs, and be run on the same tracks. They'll also feature real F1 drivers.
The first virtual race is happening this Sunday, March 22, at Bahrain. According to F1, it'll have a selection of current drivers race against "a host of stars" that have yet to be announced. That means we could see racers from different disciplines, retired drivers, or stars from the esports arena do battle with your favorite F1 drivers.
Obviously, all the drivers will race remotely to ensure everyone's safety. This first race will run at 50-percent length, or 28 laps, with a qualifying period beforehand. And even if your favorite driver isn't familiar with virtual competition, F1 says they'll be able to stay up to speed. From the release:
Of course, these races aren't for actual Formula 1 championship points. They're just being run for entertainment purposes until the real-world season can get underway. For now, that means in addition to Bahrain, the Chinese, Vietnam, Dutch, Spanish, and Monaco Grands Prix will be run virtually, without championship points given. On non-race weekends, F1 will be hosting exhibition races where fans can go head-to-head against real Formula 1 drivers.Due to the wide variety of gaming skill levels amongst the drivers, game settings will be configured in such a way to encourage competitive and entertaining racing. This includes running equal car performance with fixed setups, reduced vehicle damage, and optional anti-lock brakes and traction control for those less familiar with the game.
F1 will be streaming the events live on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and F1.com.
NOTE: As far as I can tell 20:00 GMT is 8 PM in NJ.