Formula 1 is changing. Yes, the recent unpleasantness has meant a lack of actual F1 Grand Prix action, but there's also been a huge concurrent growth in interest in Formula 1 Virtual Grands Prix – that is the plural of Grand Prix.
This week – today, Sunday May 24, in fact – there are a record number of pro drivers taking part in the virtual high-speed drive-a-thon. Actual F1 wheelmen Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas will, for the first time, be joining established petrol jockeys Alex Albon, Antonio Giovinazzi, George Russell, Nicholas Latifi, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc.
Come on, I know practically nothing about Formula 1, and even I have heard of Valtteri Bottas.
I've heard of kicky-ball men Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Thibaut Courtois too. The deceptively casual Arsenal ace and Belgian custodian of the sticks also will be ridin' today – so look out for those beauties, oh yeah.
Rounding out the 'celebrity' quota are 'big-wave surfer Kai Lenny' and Latin American singer Luis Fonsi. No, me neither.
Today's race falls on the weekend where millions usually flock to the gaudy Eurotrash seaside hell hole of Monte Carlo, for the Monaco Grand Prix. But this time it will take place in high-powered computers, creating a virtual simulation of the Circuit de Monaco.
Virtual Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix: how it works
Drivers will join the race remotely, using the PC version of Codemasters' official F1 2019 PC video game. In earlier races, the settings for each driver are adjusted so as to level the playing field a bit, with the pros having realistic settings, and the footballers something more like Mario Kart.
The qualifying period and race will be broadcast live via the Formula 1 YouTube, Twitch and Facebook channels, from the Gfinity Esports Arena
What time does the Virtual Monaco Grand Prix start?
The broadcast starts at 4pm BST with a Formula 2 virtual racing event (!)
An 'F1 Esports Pro Exhibition' race will also precede the Virtual Grand Prix, from 5pm BST.
The Formula 1 main event is at 6pm BST.
How to watch the virtual F1 Monaco Grand Prix
The live broadcast will be available on the official Formula 1 YouTube channel (opens in new tab). The main race starts at 6pm although you can tune in from 4pm for pre-race shenanigans.
If you prefer old-fashioned TV to this new-fangled streaming nonsense, the Virtual Grand Prix will also be shown live via international broadcast partners in over 100 countries. These include:
• UK: Sky Sports
• USA: ESPN,
• South east Asia: FOX Sports Asia
The race is expected to run for 1 hour 30 minutes, with a qualifying period – where grid positions are determined based on the drivers’ fastest lap times – followed by a 39-lap race.
Monaco Grand Prix virtual Formula 1 starting grid: who's driving?
Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN Antonio Giovinazzi, Thibaut Courtois
Scuderia AlphaTauri Tonio Liuzzi, Luca Salvadori
FDA Hublot Esports Team Charles Leclerc, Arthur Leclerc
Haas F1 Team Louis Deletraz, Pietro Fittipaldi
McLaren Racing Lando Norris, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Mercedes-AMG Petronas Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Gutierrez
BWT Racing Point David Schumacher, Luis Fonsi
Red Bull Racing Alex Albon, Kai Lenny
Renault Esteban Ocon, Nicolas Prost
ROKiT Williams Racing George Russell, Nicholas Latifi
How to bet on the virtual Grand Prix
In terms of being able to make a considered punt based on analysing form, racing conditions etc, you might as well bet on the National Lottery as on this. If you really must spice up everything you do with a bet, our recommendation today is that you stick to £10 each way, on the favourite.
- Place your virtual Grand Prix bet at Betway (opens in new tab)
- Place your Grand Prix bet at William Hill (opens in new tab)
Any form of gambling comes with risks and you should never gamble with money that you cannot afford to lose. If you suffer from a gambling problem, or suspect somebody you know does, then we strongly suggest that you discuss it with the National Gambling Treatment Service (opens in new tab), which offers free, confidential help for anyone who is worried about their or someone else’s gambling.
If you need help, call the national gambling helpline free in the UK on 0808 8020 133 or live chat (opens in new tab) with a National Gambling Treatment Service adviser now – they're available 24/7 for advice and to help finding the right support.
If you are in the US, then call the National Problem Gambling Hotline on 1-800-522-4700.