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  • Emma Ridgway


Cem Bolukbasi carved a pioneering new pathway en route to Formula 2, but don't go digging for your old gamer headsets just yet.

Virtual races replaced the real thing during the lockdown of 2020

Are you sitting comfortably? I ask because it turns out even the most snug, most settled and most laid-back of us can now dare to dream the impossible - of one day being a Formula 1 driver. I say this with the same tone in which I also dream of one day going into space. Alas, the chances of visiting space are significantly easier than they were a mere 20 years ago, there's just the small problem of needing to be a billionaire. But don't allow that decimating thought put you off - the news that eSports graduate Cem Bolukbasi will be racing in Formula 2 for 2022 gives us all hope of one day appearing in the title sequence before a Grand Prix, posing menacingly as the theme tune plays. Albeit, I do love the thought of replicating Sergio Perez's classic over-the-shoulder glance from the 2021 title sequence, but I have a suspicion my fear of driving fast might be a slight hinderance.

Bolukbasi's announcement was a reflection of a stunningly short route to Formula 2. Just 5 years ago he started professional eSports racing before joining a number of lower category divisions as a professional racing driver in 2019. It's incredible to think that the majority of Bolukbasi's main racing career has barely exceeded the current pandemic in which we're all continuing to endure.

Esports has become a major extension of Motorsports in the last few years. When the Formula 1 season was postponed in March 2020 many of us enjoyed the F1 Virtual Grand Prix which involved the likes of George Russell, Charles Leclerc and Alex Albon in an e-race series that attracted - at its peak - nearly 700,000 live viewers for one race. Figures released later stated that the series as a whole had been watched nearly 30 million times, a figure not easily overlooked by media outlets.

"It's incredible to think that the majority of Bolukbasi's main racing career has barely exceeded the current pandemic"

The question has to be asked of the drivers who, like those who came before them, have slugged away for the majority of their young lives trying to break into the higher Formula categories. Going down an unorthodox path does not make you wrong, but I imagine there are some who wish they'd have picked up the controller rather than the helmet. Arthur Leclerc announced his third season in Formula 3 this week, with many seats in F2 still unclearly allocated. Jamie Chadwick, the 2 times W Series Champion and Extreme E contender, has enough super license points to complete a Formula 1 Practice Session but doesn't seem to be lined up for a seat just yet. Now, with the trailblazing move from Bolukbasi the question begs to ask - what is the best route to Formula 1 after all?

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