Red Bull boss Christian Horner is encouraged by Formula 1’s first steps into esports and feels it has only breached a small edge of the industry in 2017.

This year marked the launch of F1’s own esports competition with an official global championship which culminated in a final hosted at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Great Britain’s Brendon Leigh won the competition from over 60,000 entries beating rivals from Chile, Germany and Turkey in the final.

McLaren also set up its own esports competition, the World’s Fastest Gamer, with the prize of a simulator role at the F1 team which was won by Dutchman Rudy van Buren. Red Bull has also voiced an interest in an esports league, potentially tying it to its F1 team, while Horner has been impressed by the impact and progress made this year into the online gaming industry.

“It is massively important,” Horner said. “The amount of people who are involved in esports globally. In the Premier League for example, Max Verstappen if he isn’t in our simulator he is buying players on FIFA.

“It is a generational thing, and the youth of today, esports is a key element. We are only scratching at the surface.”

The future of esports in relation to F1 looks strong given the straightforward adaption between the video game and F1 simulators used by teams. New F1 owners Liberty Media are also keen to boost interest and involvement in F1 esports in order to produce greater interest in the sport from a young audience with typical fan surveys showing an aging demographic.

F1 quoted more than 20.5 million impressions on social media plus 6m video views of the inaugural esports competition, boosted by Fernando Alonso putting his name behind his own esports team G2 in Abu Dhabi, with commercial managing director Sean Bratches enthused by the initial figures.

“The strength of the Formula 1 brand permits us to move into many new markets, and esports was a logical year-one strategy for us,” Bratches said. “The audience numbers, particularly in the digital realm, are a testament to the future opportunity for us in this space.”