McLaren has become the first Formula 1 team to enter the esports arena, announcing World's Fastest Gamer for virtual racers.
It's a contest that will see the winner offered the best job in esports – a role with the Woking outfit's Formula 1 team as one of its official simulator drivers.
World's Fastest Gamer is a collaboration between global sports and McLaren, founding partner Logitech G, a global leader in gaming gear, and the founder of virtual motorsport's famous GT Academy, Darren Cox. McLaren welcomes two further partners for launch: sports media platform GIVEMESPORT and esport racing innovator Sparco.
The format pits the best gamers in the world across multiple racing platforms as they battle each other to discover the ultimate 'champion of champions'.
The winner will be offered a one-year contract with McLaren to work in an official capacity as a simulator driver. They will work with engineers at both the McLaren Technology Centre and at grand prix circuits across the world to develop and improve the machinery driven in the real world by Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.
Six international finalists will be hand-picked by experts in both gaming and Formula 1 to join this year's competition. A further four finalists will be selected from qualifying events online during summer 2017.
The grand finale, held at the McLaren Technology Centre in the autumn, will put all 10 hopefuls through one of the most rigorous job interviews in the world. Not only will they race against each other across a variety of different gaming titles on different platforms, they will also need to demonstrate their engineering know-how, ability to work as part of a team, and display the mental and physical strengths required for such a unique position.
"This is a hugely exciting opportunity," said McLaren Technology Group Executive Director Zak Brown, "not only within the gaming industry, but for everyone at McLaren and motorsport in general. We've long witnessed the growth of online sports gaming, and, right now, the parallels between the real and the virtual worlds have never been closer.
"This is absolutely the right time to be creating such a unique and exciting proposition; one that connects the worlds of racing and gaming in a way that's never been explored before.
"I'm particularly proud that McLaren, alongside our partners Logitech, Sparco and GIVEMESPORT, have staked a claim as the very first sports and technology brand to venture into the diverse and fast-growing world of esports.
"World's Fastest Gamer really aims to democratise the process of finding the best virtual racer out there. The contest isn't limited to one platform or one game; we're very keen not to restrict access or entry for people, but rather welcome the worldwide gaming community, whether that's on mobile or on high-end simulator platforms.
"And the winner will genuinely be a key part of our team at McLaren. This is for real: we absolutely require additional support across our two simulator platforms, so the competition and the selection process will be rigorous, ruthless and compelling to watch."
"Logitech G has been in the esports world since the early days," added Ujesh Desai, Vice President and General Manager, Logitech G, "and we're happy to now work with McLaren to lead the next mainstream esport obsession! Joining McLaren as a founding partner of the World's Fastest Gamer brings together our combined expertise on one virtual platform.
"Logitech G Driving Force racing wheels are engineered for extreme performance and are designed to win; we're proud to be able to provide them for these exciting events.
"Logitech G and McLaren share an obsession for speed, cutting-edge technology and the passion of millions of fans. We can't wait to see what the future will bring."
"Gaming and esports are growing at an astonishing rate," said Darren Cox, IDEAS+CARS Chief Maverick Officer. "The football industry has recognised this, with the result that activity has exploded between the real world and the virtual world in the last 18 months. Now, World's Fastest Gamer will provide the focus for motorsport to talk directly to the huge numbers of passionate and dedicated gamers racing online – engaging and immersing them in the real world of racing.
"In McLaren and Logitech G, we have the perfect partner with whom to deliver this project: their constant focus on technical innovation and their authoritative position within motorsport's digital communication sphere are the obvious major benefits. However, to align with a global sports and technology brand that is renowned for producing some of the world's greatest Formula 1 cars, road cars, and that now applies insights from both to improve lives through its technology arm, gives us the opportunity to involve and integrate gamers from across a whole range of gaming platforms and racing interests.
"Motorsport will invest heavily in esports in the coming months and years, and World's Fastest Gamer is at the very forefront of that movement."