Formula 1’s Virtual Grand Prix series will return for three rounds ahead of the upcoming real-life 2021 season.

After the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to racing last year, F1 introduced its Virtual Grand Prix series to help entertain fans in the enforced break before the season finally got underway in July.

Following the success of 2020, F1 is bringing the series back with virtual events taking place on three successive weekends.

F1 says “F1 drivers past and present” and celebrity guests will compete for 10 teams across the three race weekends, with a prize fund to designate to a charity of their choice on offer for the team that ends the series with the most points.

The Esports competition will change place across three rounds on 31 January, 7 February and 14 February, before the delayed 2021 F1 season kicks off on 28 March with the Bahrain Grand Prix following the postponement of the planned opener in Australia.

A revised format will see F1’s Esports pro gamers contest a five-lap sprint race in order to determine the grid for the main race, which will be at 50 percent for the combination of competing F1 drivers and celebrities.

“2020 was a tough year for everyone, but we look forward to bringing fans more excitement in 2021, starting with the return of the Virtual Grands Prix as we welcome back some of the faces that made it such a special experience last year, and invite some new ones too, all in the name of charity,” said F1’s head of esports Julian Tan.

Williams' George Russell was crowned the unofficial Virtual Grand Prix series champion after claiming four consecutive victories last year. 

F1 says it achieved a total of 11.4million live stream views across all digital platforms in 2020, representing a 98 percent increase compared to 2019.

“It is fantastic to see the F1 Esports Series 2020 break viewing and engagement records after a brilliant championship where we saw competitive racing and high drama at every event,” Tan added.

“We had to adapt in the way we operated for this year’s Pro Series due to the pandemic, but we’re thrilled to see that it didn’t affect viewers enjoyment, or consumption, of the action.”