Kurt Verlin
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Sunday’s Most-Watched Twitch Stream Belonged to F1’s Lando Norris

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Lando Norris had the most-watched Twitch stream of Sunday, March 15
Photo: David Merrett via CC

Formula One driver Lando Norris had the most-watched Twitch stream of Sunday with his viewer count climbing past the 70,000 mark. Norris was participating in an impromptu online race that Veloce Esports had organized in the wake of the cancellation of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Norris’s stream had the lion’s share of more than 100,000 people who viewed the race in real time across a variety of platforms including Twitch, YouTube, and Mixer. In addition to Norris, the race — dubbed “Not the AUS GP” and run on Codemasters’ F1 2019 video game — featured other big names like former F1 drivers Esteban Gutiérrez and Stoffel Vandoorne, as well as Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, pro simracers and well-known YouTube personalities.

Funnily enough, for someone who races in F1 against some of the biggest names in global sport, Norris was cracking under the pressure of the attention. “I’m more nervous now than when I drive the actual car!” he said as the viewer count kept climbing. The effect on his nerves was noticeable as he made hilarious mistakes, such as repeatedly forgetting about DRS or thinking he’d had the world’s best start when he peeled past everyone…on the formation lap.

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Though it was the most watched, “Not the AUS GP” was actually the second substitute race of the day. Before it, The Race had hosted an all-star esports event using the more realistic rFactor 2 racing simulator, and it had featured even more big names.

Three heats served as qualifying for one final race. In the first, real pro racers the likes of Max Verstappen, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, and Neel Jani. The second heat was made up of professional sim racers including Rudy van Buren, Bono Huis, and Brendon Leigh. Finally, the third heat was a mix of rFactor 2 professionals and amateurs who had managed to qualify for the event the night before.

Amusingly, the majority of the real racers were totally outclassed by the pro gamers. The third heat was by far the most competitive, while the first heat, comprised only of real racers, featured the most crashes and collisions. Jernej Simončič, from the third heat, went on to win the whole thing in a fairly dominant fashion.

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The all-star race even featured big-name commentators: Jolyon Palmer, former F1 driver turned pundit, and Jack Nicholls, who does a variety of sports commentating including Formula E and the Olympics.

“Not the AUS GP” wasn’t nearly as well organized, but the appeal of watching it live from Lando Norris’s own perspective certainly helped make the race the more popular of the two events. That, and Norris’s colorful personality.

With many of the F1 season’s first Grands Prix in doubt, it’s likely we can expect additional, similar events in the near future. And given how popular “Not the AUS GP” turned out to be, it may convince other F1 drivers to participate.