Attention video gamers: Formula One could be for you, says Hong Kong driver Adderly Fong

Hong Kong ace believes gamers could play a bigger role in Formula One and help identify drivers to compete in the real thing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 May, 2017, 1:02pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 May, 2017, 9:17pm

Developing video-game skills is set to become a major path to a Formula One motor-racing career, top Hong Kong driver Adderly Fong Cheun-yue believes.

Bentley Team Absolute driver Fong was commenting on the recent announcement by F1 team McLaren of a competition to find the “world’s fastest gamer” with a view to grooming that person to become one of the team’s simulator drivers.

“Formula One stars could start off as gamers in future,” said 27-year-old Fong, who was a F1 development driver for Lotus in 2015, the closest a Chinese driver has come to driving in Formula One.

“Nissan actually started a programme called the GT academy, where they used the Gran Turismo video game to audition drivers to have a final shoot-out. The top 30 did a training course in the UK and went through the ranks from small cars to GT3 race cars. I would say it’s going to become more common to see the link between video game simulation and real driving.”

Up close with F1 development driver Adderly Fong

“A lot of experience and knowledge has to be accrued on track, but to start off from fundamentals and basics, video games are also a good platform because there’s no risk of crashing a car.

Watch: Adderly Fong competes in the Pirelli challenge in the US

You can go flat out and try things that you wouldn’t be willing to try in the real car ... and come out without any penalties, so to speak. The question is when ... but I believe in the near future we’ll see more of a link between gaming and driving.”

It’s understood that McLaren are the first Formula One team to announce such a contest.

An example of a gamer who has made the successful transition to driving is British racer Jann Mardenborough, who is now factory driver for Toyota having competed in Nissan Nismo in LMP1 class in the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship and Carlin in the 2015 GP3 series season.

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“McLaren are taking it seriously, too. I believe it’s a good thing,” said Fong.

This trend could mean the long hours spent in front of a Playstation or Xbox might pay off for the wannabe driver. Video gaming is big business and has even become a medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

“Video games, computers, simulations are getting more real so it can become a viable option for the future, especially the drivers’ simulators,” said Fong. “They have come on in leaps and bounds in the last 10 years.

“In the not too distant future, the driving experience might actually become quite real in terms of video gaming. I used to play a lot of video games myself. Playing computer games definitely taught me how to multi-task and handle more things inside the car. It’s ultra-competitive. It’s a good place to find good drivers.”

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Fong will join Thai driver Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak in one of four Bentley Continental GT3s that will do battle in the China GT championship, starting on Friday at the Beijing Goldenport Motor Park. The GT Asia Series is partnering the China GT Championship.

Fong will also compete in the Pirelli World Challenge, North America’s top production-car-based racing championship.

Fong hasn’t abandoned his hopes of racing in Formula One, but he admitted his chances have shrunk since Lotus was bought by Renault in 2016.

“The dream now is to compete in Formula E, especially in Hong Kong,” said Fong.“I believe electric cars in general are the trend. In terms of mass public and vehicles from that standpoint, everything is going to shift towards electric anyway.”