'Only a matter of time' before Formula One and esports converge

Verstappen reveals new-look race helmet (0:43)

Red Bull's Max Verstappen shares a first look at the helmet he'll be using for the 2019 Formula One season. (0:43)

Formula One bosses believe the world championship could have a complete overlap with the world of esports within the next 10 years.

F1 launched a successful esports series in 2017, which continued into a second season last year. In 2018, every team except Ferrari committed to entering the championship and held an NFL-style draft for their squads.

McLaren has been the most proactive team on the esports side. In 2017, it launched the World's Fastest Gamer to discover a new simulator driver for its F1 outfit. An extensive evaluation process led it to hiring Dutch driver Rudy van Buren, who had driven karts at a young age before moving into the world of esports. That evolved into the Shadow Project in 2018, a competition that whittled down over 500,00 entrants into one winner, Brazilian driver Igor Fraga.

Esports made headlines again at the start of this year during the Race of Champions in January. Sim racer Enzo Bonito won a head-to-head race with ex-Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi in one of the biggest upsets of the whole event. Bonito's victory turned the heads of many within the world of motor racing -- including F1's head of marketing, Ellie Norman, who has been one of the most vocal advocates of the move to embrace esports.

When asked if she can foresee a sim racer finding a race seat in F1 within the next 10 years, Norman told ESPN: "I would definitely say, 'watch this space,' especially after the Race of Champions.

"That crystallised esports as a profession versus it being just a game. I think 10 years, the speed in which technology changes is phenomenal, so that could happen within that timeframe.

"It's been so successful, the first two seasons of esports for F1. It will be a matter of time before we see the convergence of these worlds getting an absolute overlap. I think that's a really exciting apex that's going to come."

F1 technical boss Ross Brawn and his team have also used esports platforms to evaluate potential tweaks to the format of a race weekend and even the way cars line up on the grid. But Norman sees a wider benefit for F1 as it continues to look at ways to reach a younger fanbase.

"You can satisfy various audiences," she said. "You have this physical race on track, for some people that might be the only thing he's going to want to watch -- whether that's on TV or at the race track. But there's a whole new audience that wants to watch the race whilst they are virtually racing themselves at the same time. That will be their experience of F1.

"And that isn't wrong for either party, it's just how they're choosing to enjoy the sport. And that for me is where it's vitally important for me that we hold on to the DNA of the sport but we are able to take the experience of the sport in ways which is really, really relevant for that.

"Even within Ross' team it's incredibly exciting to see how esports can become platforms for them to test race formats, CFD models, all of the things that's never taken place within the sport before. I think that's us being quite progressive with how we're using different platforms and technology available to us."