With little on-track action taking place during the global COVID-19 pandemic, the focus has shifted to what the virtual world can offer. You can join in on your computer or games console with these cars;
For readers hoping in recent weeks for fewer headlines about event cancellations brought about by coronavirus, then Esports has gladly fulfilled their wishes within motorsport as some of the best racing drivers in the world have taken to their bedrooms (or other areas of their homes) to battle each other in a variety of machinery in the digital world.
This has resulted in entertaining discipline-crossing virtual appearances, lots of all-star grids and some very controversial clashes between on-track rivals Lando Norris and Max Verstappen in the Dallara F312/317 car that they excelled in during their junior careers.
That car is one of a handful of smaller single-seater cars that can be accessed on cloud-based simulator programmes such as iRacing and rFactor 2, and now the Road to Indy and Formula Regional Americas has hopped on the bandwagon with their real-world drivers to follow the efforts of Formula 1, IndyCar and several Esports-specific groups. At least one European junior single-seater series is also showing interest in a TV-like Esports product to substitute for real racing, with drivers on cockpit-like simulator rigs and using wraparound screens as hardware, and choosing one of the above two programmes for software.
There are several other simulators that the pros are enjoying the use of, and F1 is actually utilising its own console game, which is in a market awash with racing games that are more widely used. Formula Scout has compiled a list of the modern junior single-seater cars on computer and console that you can race with while waiting for real-world motorsport to return.
Dallara F317 – Euroformula, Super Formula Lights iRacing, rFactor 2, Assetto Corsa
A car that so popular that it consistently brought back higher-level drivers for the Macau Grand Prix, the Dallara F317 is also known privately for being hotly contested by pro drivers when teams required shakedowns for new chassis.
The car was, in essence, the same as the Dallara F312 that had been introduced in 2012, but with a lower nose and improved safety features after five years of use. The simple aerodynamic adjustment meant chassis rolling off the production line from 2017 onwards could still run in Euroformula using the high nose of the F312. The underpinnings also provide the basis of the new Dallara 320 that Euroformula and Super Formula Lights will be using this year as they retire the F312/317.
F3R Americas is utilising the car for its new Esports series, acting as a substitute to real racing, despite it being a car that the FIA sought to replace by introducing its regional F3 concept and series such as F3R Americas. It’s also been used by Esports-based Team Redline’s competitions, the highlights of which have been the battles between Norris and Verstappen, as well as watchable private iRacing contests between pro drivers which have included some controversial decisions from inexperienced race director Antonio Felix da Costa.
Best race:?2017 Macau Grand Prix
Best in-game circuit: Guia Circuit (rFactor 2, Assetto Corsa)
Dallara T12 – Formula V8 3.5 Project CARS 2, iRacing, rFactor 2, Assetto Corsa
When World Series Formula V8 3.5 ended in 2017, that marked the final time that the rapid Dallara T12 would be in action.
BOSS GP, which is home to ‘Big Open-wheel Single-Seaters’, hasn’t inherited the vehicle but several racing simulators have. It exists in an official capacity on iRacing and rFactor 2, and as a mod on Assetto Corsa.
The car itself has a six-speed sequential gearbox, a 3.4-litre V8 engine from Zytek capable of 530hp, and at 616kg was only slightly heavier than the current regional Formula 3 cars and would be over 12 seconds faster at circuits like Monza where the power of its engine would come into play.
Robin Frijns won the first title for the car in 2012 in a dramatic title fight with Jules Bianchi and Sam Bird, and those kinds of thrills in wheel-to-wheel action and in the standings were usually repeated whenever the season ended at Barcelona.
For most of its years in use, it arguably outperformed GP2, which also used a Dallara chassis, in being F1’s top feeder series. As soon as the momentum started lacking though, Renault pulled out and the series ended in truly global style.
Why is it a modern car, despite its very un-2020 V8 engine, has been collecting dust for two years? Well, a fleet of them are still waiting to return to the track, and it’s not impossible that they will be used for their own series again in the future.
Best race: 2012 Barcelona race two
Best circuit:?Barcelona (Project CARS 2, iRacing, rFactor 2, Assetto Corsa)
Dallara F2 2018 – Formula 2 F1 2019, Assetto Corsa
The reliability issues that plagued the introduction of the Dallara F2 2018 don’t exist in the virtual world unless you turn up the chance of failure in-game settings of course.
While rFactor 2 was the official FV8 3.5 game back in 2014, a genuine replica of a junior single-seater series rather than just its cars has not been common in racing games. International Formula Master’s appearance on?Race On in 2009 may be the most recent example until Formula 2 became an integrated part of the F1 game franchise with its most recent edition.
Players can choose to be any of the drivers from the 2018 and ’19 F2 season, or a driver of their own creation, then make their way into F1 via rivalries and controversies influenced by real-life events. Like all other racing games at present, you can also race online using the genuinely overtaking-friendly F2 car.
A detailed mod of the car, and a set of recent liveries, have also been made available on Assetto Corsa where you can drive on pre-modification Zandvoort as it doesn’t yet exist on F1’s games.
As any F2 driver would attest to, you’ll only enjoy the experience if you’re quick to learn the tricky Pirelli tyres.
Best race: 2018 Hungaroring feature race
Best circuit: Baku (F1 2019)
Tatuus F4-T014 – ADAC F4, Italian F4, Spanish F4, F4 SMP, F4 UAE rFactor 2, Raceroom
The Tatuus F4-T014 is in its seventh year of use, a frankly remarkable stat and a stark reminder of how quickly time passes, and the FIA has given it homologation status through to the end of 2023 despite a halo-shod replacement arriving.
Italian Formula 4 was the first championship to race the car, with current Racing Point F1 star Lance Stroll being the first-ever winner of an FIA F4 race. He went on to win the title and was joined last year in F1 by fellow F4 graduate Norris.
The car forms the basis of the BRDC British F3 car and the Tatuus designs used in Indy Pro 2000 and USF2000 in America, and is therefore incredibly adaptable. It’s also fairly aero-heavy for what is essentially an entry-level single-seater, meaning overtaking will be difficult in closely matched grids on rFactor 2 and Microsoft’s Raceroom.
Having a smaller wheelspan than the more powerful cars means races can comfortably feature 30 cars, although once wheels are tangled it’s very easy for the car to rotate into the air.
The closest the F4-T014 has come to being raced on a street circuit is the semi-permanent Sochi Autodrom, so why not lap the Norisring, Valencia’s docklands or Macau to see how the car would perform on the streets.
Best race: 2019 Italian F4 Hungaroring race three
Best circuit: Hockenheim (rFactor 2, Raceroom)
Tatuus FR2.0/13 – FR Asiacup iRacing?
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the status of Formula Renault 2.0’s long-serving current chassis in limbo, given two of the series that used it were aiming to move to regional F3 regulations this year.
For now, we can expect to see the Tatuus FR2.0/13 remaining in action in the FR Asiacup, whether that be in its own races or in combined grids with F3 cars. The two largest markets for the car closed at the end of 2018, meaning there are at least 50 rolling chassis ready to be raced by drivers with single-seater ambitions.
There’s no better way to prepare for racing one of these cars than gaining extensive experience on iRacing beforehand, what with free-to-view guides from experts on how to set-up the car and extract laptime from it at a number of circuits, and it’s a racing favourite among the Esports-flocking professional racing drivers.
The FR2.0 car, despite its era, suits classic F1 circuits far better than the ‘Tilkedromes’ of today, although the reimagined Red Bull Ring did provide thrilling races for series using the car that raced there.
Best race: 2016 FR Eurocup Red Bull Ring race one
Best circuit: Spa-Francorchamps (iRacing)
Williams JPH1B – Autosport BRDC Award rFactor 2
After MotorSport Vision’s FIA Formula Two series folded at the end of 2012, its fleet of Williams-designed cars have seen service as the test tools of the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award.
This gives these cars some serious relevance, given drivers are rewarded F1 tests based on some part on their performance in the Williams JPH1B. Dan Ticktum famously claimed AMABA victory in 2017 with a stunning run in the car using slick tyres on a drying track.
Prior to that, it’s F3-equalling pace provided a cheaper route to F1 for Jolyon Palmer, whose father Jonathan did own F2, and made for entertaining trackside viewing. The problem was that even when the series did attract a higher calibre of the driver, their performances did little for their careers and they made their name via alternative means: just ask Audi’s GT star Mirko Bortolotti, BMW’s DTM talent Philipp Eng and ex-Mercedes-Benz and IndyCar driver Robert Wickens.
The technical specs of the JPH1B? are certainly interesting, with it containing a 1.8L Audi engine capable of 425hp in its regular mode and 500hp when push-to-pass was in use in an innovation tool for junior single-seaters. Over the four years it raced, the car also shed weight to make it even faster.
Best race: 2012 Monza race one
Best circuit: Monza (rFactor 2)
Tatuus T-318 – Asian F3, FR Asiacup, FR Eurocup, FREC, W Series rFactor 2
The fact that both Europe’s premier F3 series and the ‘one car for all talents’ W Series uses the Tatuus T-318 suggests it’s simultaneously challenging for drivers looking to race in the FIA F3 Championship or F2, while also friendly enough for drivers who are inexperienced or have been out of slicks-and-wings cars for several years.
This has made it popular across the globe for interested series, and it has been equipped with Alfa Romeo, Renault and Toyota engines so far. rFactor’s model features the 280hp Alfa engine and the Pirelli tyres as used in Formula Regional European Championship.
Beyond the engine and tyres, some small tweaks were made to the car for its use in the Formula Renault Eurocup, while even greater aerodynamic notifications came in for the Toyota Racing Series this January. Down in New Zealand the car proved adept at making entertaining racing despite the narrowness of the circuits, while there have been varying levels of entertainment when it comes to the wheel-to-wheel action in the other series.
As the Formula Renault Eurocup has proven, the T-318 is a great intermediate step now between FR2.0 and FIA F3.
Best race: 2019 FREC Hungaroring race three
Best circuit: Manfeild (rFactor 2)
Tatuus FT-50 – Toyota Racing Series rFactor 2
The T-318-based Toyota FT-60 has already proven itself a worthy successor to Tatuus’s FT-50, which sometimes delivered racing that was unbelievably close but clean given the inexperience of the drivers involved and the circuits they raced on.
It was retired during the 2019 season in stunning style, as M2 Competition team-mates Liam Lawson and Marcus Armstrong fought for the title all the way through to the final race, and usually by disputing track position among each other.
Before Lawson and Armstrong there were several other M2 title rivalries, with Norris and Jehan Daruvala in 2016 and then a proper three-way scrap between Robert Shwartzman, Richard Verschoor and Armstrong in 2018.
The car was low on power, especially compared to rivals pitching for the same level of single-seaters, but it was also far lighter than its opposition and therefore a nimble machine. This should make it heaps of fun to drive on a simulator.
Best race: 2019 New Zealand Grand Prix
Best circuit: Taupo (rFactor)
Mygale SJ11 – BRSCC National FF1600, F1600 Championship Series Project CARS 2
The Mygale SJ11 was built for Formula Ford 1600 regulations, but it really found its home when it had a Honda engine in the back once exported to America.
It’s still one of the cars to have in North America’s leading FF1600-style series, and a very close model of it exists in the Project Cars 2 simulator game.
As seen above, the car is without wings and runs on grooved tyres in all weather conditions, which generally makes it a handful on any circuit it visits. Changing gear is all done via an old-school stick rather than paddles, and the steering wheels for these cars are usually without a dash and used purely for, well, steering.
To drive one of these cars quickly requires a heel and toe application of the pedals, and is as comfortable as sending a car sideways into a corner as facing forward. The simpler electronics means a driver can have a great influence on the reliability of their car, with the timing of gear changes and being careful not to overrev the engine absolutely critical. An error on either of those fronts could literally end a season for some competitors, although thankfully not in the virtual world.
Best FF1600 race: 2019 BRSCC National FF1600 Silverstone race two
Best circuit: Brands Hatch (Project CARS 2)
Tatuus PM-18 – Indy Pro 2000 (USF2000) iRacing (soon), rFactor 2
The new Road to Indy iRacing eSeries, another substitute championship while racing can’t take place during the COVID-19 pandemic, is currently tied to one of its previous generation cars on iRacing, but work is already underway to introduce the Tatuus F4-T014-inspired Tatuus PM-18 and the similar USF-17 to the simulator programme as soon as possible.
The USF-17, which looks very similar to BRDC British F3’s machine, was introduced to USF2000 in 2017 and is essentially a strengthened version of the cars raced in Europe. American circuits, especially street ones, are far rougher than European ones and there are more concrete barriers than asphalt runoffs. It has roughly the same performance as the F4 car, whereas the 2.0L Mazda engine in Indy Pro 2000’s car has a substantial 275hp and is faster than its F3 equivalent.
With added aero and grippy tyres, the PM-18 is an improvement on its predecessor, but drivers say its demands are different to that of the Road to Indy’s next tier, meaning the step from Indy Lights to IndyCar is easier than IP2000 to Indy Lights.
There’s no due date as yet on when the car, which is already on rFactor 2, will be introduced to iRacing but the game has already released images of its model and the Road to Indy will be wanting to utilise it before the end of its Esports season.
Best race: 2019 IP2000 Gateway
Best circuit: Indianapolis (iRacing, rFactor 2)