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Williams duo Russell and Latifi are first Formula 1 drivers confirmed as Virtual Grands Prix return for charity

George Miller

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Williams duo Russell and Latifi are first Formula 1 drivers confirmed as Virtual Grands Prix return for charity
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Williams Racing’s George Russell and Nicholas Latifi are the first Formula 1 drivers to confirm their spots as F1 Esports’ hugely-popular Virtual Grands Prix return this weekend. The Virtual Austrian Grand Prix takes place on Sunday 31 January, kicking off a trio of special live events as team’s battle it out for a share of a charity prize pot that they will donate to a cause of their choosing.

Russell is no stranger to the Virtual Grands Prix after winning last year’s series, following a number of impressive performances, as the online racing action took the place of real-life competition when the pandemic first struck. Russell and Latifi will be representing the current crop of F1 drivers in the first event, alongside some former stars of the sport and future prospects, but the Williams Racing duo will be joined by fellow drivers from the 2021 grid in upcoming events.

Alex Albon, Red Bull Racing Test and Reserve Driver and Wings for Life ambassador, was a firm favourite in last year’s Virtual Grands Prix and returns alongside Jeffrey Herlings, Red Bull KTM Factory rider and MXGP World Champion. Pietro Fittipaldi made his Haas F1 debut last season in Bahrain and will represent the American team in this week’s race, alongside his brother Enzo, whilst former F1 drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Tonio Luizzi will represent Mercedes and AlphaTauri respectively. Renault academy drivers Christian Lundgaard and reigning FIA F3 champion Oscar Piastri will drive for Alpine, whilst Virtual Grand Prix regular and Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois returns this year for Alfa Romeo. The full line-up will be announced across the official F1 social media channels over the coming days.

While the return of Virtual Grands Prix will give fans around the world excitement ahead of the Formula 1 season starting in Bahrain, the primary focus of this year’s three-race competition is to donate money to charities chosen by the teams. Each nominated charity will receive a significant donation from the overall prize fund, regardless of whether the team finishes first or last in the standings after the three events.

This year’s Virtual Grand Prix events will begin with a sprint-race, featuring the team’s talented F1 Esports Pro Series drivers, to decide the starting grid, before the teams’ pairings, made up of motorsport stars, sporting heroes and celebrities, will take to the track and get ready to race. Silverstone and Interlagos will also play host to upcoming virtual races on Sunday 7 February and Sunday 14 February respectively.

The Virtual Austrian Grand Prix will be broadcast from 18:00 GMT on Sunday 31 January on the official Formula 1 YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, Huya (China) and Weibo (China) channels, as well as broadcast by international television partners including Sky Sports, ESPN, FOX Sports and Ziggo.

Julian Tan, Head of Digital Business Initiatives & Esports at Formula 1 said:

“We are thrilled to be bringing the Virtual Grands Prix back to keep fans entertained during the off-season as we look forward to the year of racing ahead. Last year’s virtual events were a huge success for F1 Esports and we can’t wait to see the F1 drivers and famous faces back in action once again, and this time all in the name of charity!”

eSports

Red Bull Mobile Esports Open Season 3 Finals to Crown the Best Players in the World

George Miller

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Red Bull Mobile Esports Open Season 3 Finals to Crown the Best Players in the World
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The third year of the competitive celebration of the mobile gaming scene comes to a spectacular thirteen day conclusion with world finals for Hearthstone® on March 20th, Teamfight Tactics on March 27th, and PUBG MOBILE on March 22nd and 29th.

  • The best Teamfight Tactics, Hearthstone and PUBG MOBILE players in the world will compete on the world stage in an epic thirteen day final, transporting players and fans to a virtual Istanbul.
  • The Red Bull Mobile Esports Open (M.E.O.) Season 3 Finals festival begins when the virtual Istanbul venue opens on March 17th.
  • The event will crown champions for all three games from March 20th – 29th.
  • Season 3 has been the most ambitious to date, with over 22,000 players registering to compete.

Red Bull M.E.O., the global mobile competition where Teamfight Tactics (TFT), Hearthstone®, and PUBG MOBILE players across the globe have been battling for supremacy, comes to an exciting close in March 2021! In its third year, the mobile open will close out its most ambitious season to date with an extraordinary thirteen day world final beginning on March 17th, transporting fans to a virtual Istanbul. The event will see national winners from 28 countries compete on the world stage to identify the best players on the planet. Alongside the highest tier of competition, the world final will offer fans a digital festival celebrating one of the world’s most beautiful cities, including virtual tours, exciting live streams, interactive challenges, and much more.

Uniquely positioned on both the continents of Europe, and Asia, Istanbul is the perfect digital battleground for the global competition. The immersive playground will feature three areas dedicated to the Red Bull M.E.O. Season 3 games, with the tournaments taking place in iconic and historic locations of Istanbul. The Hearthstone competition will take place at Grand Bazaar, one the oldest and largest markets in the world, and TFT will take place at the vibrant Ortaköy Square.

The PUBG MOBILE finals will be split into two regional events to ensure the best possible experience for players, crowning Red Bull M.E.O. Season 3 Champions of East and West respectively, and will take place at the Haydarpaşa Train Station & Dock. Engaging events throughout the final will include an airdrop treasure hunt available in the PUBG MOBILE district. The finals will also offer virtual tours of some of the city’s most iconic locations including Sultanahmet Square and Galata Tower, video content and streams, interactive mini games, and more. Istanbul has already played host to the Red Bull M.E.O. National Finals for Turkey in July, a spectacular event which saw players compete from their cars on a moving ferry to ensure social distancing.

The high-stakes competition kicks off on March 20th with the global final for the fast-paced strategy card game Hearthstone. Truly open to all, the exciting Red Bull M.E.O. Season 3 Finals stream will see players compete in Riot Games’ auto battler TFT on March 27th. The thirteen day festival will host two competitions to crown the best PUBG MOBILE players on March 22nd (East), and March 29th (West), and some of the biggest pro organisations in the world battle rising stars from every corner of the globe who have proven themselves in national competitions.

Red Bull M.E.O. Season 3 has been the most successful yet, with more players than ever before competing in national events in 28 countries. Season 3 began in May 2020, and has seen more than 22,000 players around the world register to compete.

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Central Europe

paysafecard Becomes Premium Partner of A1 Esports League Austria

Niji Narayan

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paysafecard Becomes Premium Partner of A1 Esports League Austria
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paysafecard, part of leading integrated payments platform Paysafe, has become the Premium Partner of A1 esports League Austria, the country’s largest esports league.

The A1 League now has more than 15,000 participants and offers esports challenges across several top titles such as League of Legends, Brawl Stars, Clash Royale and VALORANT. 2021 sees the launch of a Pro Series and Amateur Series with a separate stage for up-and-coming players and talents.

The focus of the collaboration between paysafecard and the A1 esports League Austria is on promoting the local esports scene and fan activations in living rooms across the country. The first 200 participants of the A1 esports League Austria will receive a paysafecard voucher to the value of EUR 5 to get started with training right away.

Additionally, paysafecard and A1 esports will regularly organise gaming quizzes via social media during the group phase and provide all fans at home with engaging content. Previous champions of the A1 esports League Austria will be honoured in a dedicated virtual Hall of Fame. The “A1 esports Hall of Fame presented by paysafecard” will be launched and shared on A1esports.at in the coming weeks.

For the league broadcasts, paysafecard and A1 are launching a new second screen offer: the A1 esports paysafecard Challenge. With the challenge, viewers can participate virtually and test their skills online. All participants will be able to take part in weekly gaming and esports quizzes, challenges, raffles and team votes.

“We are very pleased to have partnered with paysafecard, which has long played a part in the global esports industry, for the A1 esports League Austria. With this commitment, we are once again strengthening the focus on the local esports scene and creating additional entertainment for all viewers and fans of the league with the A1 esports paysafecard Challenge,” Marco Harfmann, Director of Marketing Communications at A1, said.

“paysafecard is committed to providing gamers with a quick, convenient and secure payment solution. We are proud of our active contributions to the community over many years. As a market leader in our industry, we enthusiastically support the largest esports league in Austria – bringing two big players together to offer the perfect gaming and payment experience,” Udo Mueller, CEO at paysafecard, said.

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eSports

Chinese Esports Firm VSPN Considering an IPO

Niji Narayan

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Chinese Esports Firm VSPN Considering an IPO
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Chinese esports firm VSPN is considering an initial public offering (IPO) in the US as soon as this year to build its war chest for expansion in China’s competitive gaming arena, people familiar with the matter said.

VSPN, also known as Xi’an Quantum Sports Management Co., could raise several hundred million dollars in the IPO, one of the people said, requesting not to be named because the matter is private.

Deliberations are at an early stage and details including size and timeline could change, the people said. A company representative said they don’t have an IPO plan at this stage.

Headquartered in Shanghai, the company also has offices in Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Indonesia and the US, creating more than 13,000 competitions for broadcast. The company raised $60 million in a Series B+ funding round from backers including Prospect Avenue Capital and Guotai Junan International Holdings Ltd., according to an announcement in January. Its other investors include Kuaishou Technology, Sequoia Capital China, Susquehanna International Group, Tencent and Tiantu Capital.

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