Kannapolis-based Haas F1 team launches into Esports in London Wednesday night

Kannapolis-based Haas F1 team launches into Esports in London Wednesday night
Haas F1 Esports driver Martin Stefanko (Source: Haas F1 Team)

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (WBTV) - From Haas F1 Team: London’s Gfinity Esports Arena is set to host the start of the 2019 Formula 1 New Balance Esports Pro Series on Wednesday Sept. 11, pitching the world’s top esports drivers against each other as they represent all ten Formula One teams competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship. September’s event is the first of four live shows in London between now and December, with drivers and teams competing for a prize fund of $500,000.

From a record-breaking entry field of 109,000 gamers competing across the globe, Haas F1 Team Esports has selected Jan Fehler, Martin Štefanko and Floris Wijers to compete against the nine other squads in the series.

Hailing from the Czech Republic, 20-year-old Štefanko returns to the Haas line-up having raced for the team in the inaugural Formula 1 New Balance Esports Pro Series in 2018. He’s partnered in 2019 by newcomers Fehler and Wijers. Germany’s Jan Fehler (23) successfully made the squad having previously qualified for the series draft in 2018. Floris Wijers was the official draft selection of Haas F1 Team Esports this season, the 19-year-old Dutch racer one of the standouts from the 2019 field of entrants and a race winner in the draft.

Fans can follow all the action from the Gfinity Esports Arena across the globe with all four live events this year being streamed online between 19:00 – 21:00 (BST) on F1’s Facebook page, YouTube and Twitch. The races will be broadcast on global television by Sky UK, Ziggo (Netherlands) and Fox Australia, among others.

Following Wednesday’s season-opener, the remaining schedule dates are Oct. 2nd, Nov.6th and the Grand Final on Dec. 4th.

Martin Štefanko, Haas F1 Team Esports

What are your thoughts on the growth of F1 Esports and what excites you about the 2019 F1 New Balance Esports Pro Series?

“I think the growth of F1 Esports is great. The whole competition is great because it’s great for the whole sim-racing community. It shows people what we’re doing, and how difficult and close it is to the real thing. I think it’s good for those of us who don’t have the money, for example, to race in real life – it’s a chance to get there. Some people already have and that’s great. I’m excited that we finally have Ferrari on the grid, the fact that we have the full grid is amazing. It’s going to push the series forward, and I think that’s the most important thing.”

What preparations have you and the team made this season to prepare for the start of the series?

“We’ve generally been working hard on the set-up, on the strategy, working with the tires and understanding how they work. The ERS (Energy Recovery System) as well, that’s really important to manage it in the race, and to use the right modes in qualifying. We’ve been working on pace, race consistency, making sure we don’t make any mistakes. Just general preparation as always.”

What’s the single biggest challenge in being an F1 Esports racer?

“The fact that you’ve always got to compete at your best. You always have to bring your a-game. If you don’t, you won’t last very long.”

What are the strengths in the Haas F1 Team Esports line-up? Tell us about your teammates.

“Floris (Wijers) is an incredibly quick guy. From last year he has improved massively, his pace is really good. Jan (Fehler) is also quick, and he understands the set-ups really well. He’s a great help for us. Just generally I think we have the whole package. We have the guys who have pace, we have the guys who understand set-ups, so I think we’re up for a strong season.”

Where does the greatest competition lie and how do you see Haas F1 Team Esports performing?

“From my point of view, I don’t really have any expectations because all that matters to me is the teams’ championship. In our case, if we’re in the top-five by the end of the season, that’ll be a great result. I believe we have the talent to do it. We just need to make sure we perform at our best and make sure we get that top-five. I think Mercedes is incredibly strong, Brendon Leigh is a two-time champion. Alfa Romeo are incredibly strong too, Salih Saltunç and Daniel Bereznay – one of the quickest guys on the game. Also Red Bull, Frederik Rasmussen fought for the title last year, and Joni Tӧrmälä is also a really quick guy. I think those three teams will probably be the favorites for the championship.”

Jan Fehler, Haas F1 Team Esports

What are your thoughts on the growth of F1 Esports and what excites you about the 2019 F1 New Balance Esports Pro Series?

“I think the growth has been absolutely phenomenal to see. It’s not only the increase in the prize money from the first season, but also everything around the racing itself. The events keep getting bigger and bigger, and more and more people are getting involved – not only watching it but taking part in the competition. It’s good to see where it’s headed. I can’t wait to see how it evolves in the next five years.”

What’s the single biggest challenge in being an F1 Esports racer?

“The biggest challenge is to perform when it matters. Obviously, race consistency, it’s not good enough to be fast only on one lap, you have to do it when it matters and show what you’re capable of.”

What are the strengths in the Haas F1 Team Esports line-up? Tell us about your teammates.

“Our strength is that we’re there or thereabouts at the same pace. That helps us to keep pushing and keeps us moving forward. Off-track we have a very good chemistry and have a good time together. That helps us have good practices and good results in the end.”

Where does the greatest competition lie and how do you see Haas F1 Team Esports performing?

“There’s no team that has a weak line-up. I think every team is capable of scoring race wins. We obviously hope to perform better than last year. I think if we score points regularly, that should be our main target, maybe with a few podiums. You never know how it’ll come together but maybe we can win races.”

Floris Wijers, Haas F1 Team Esports

What are your thoughts on the growth of F1 Esports and what excites you about the 2019 F1 New Balance Esports Pro Series?

“It’s grown really quickly since 2017, and again since last year – including the Pro Draft. I participated in that last year, it was a massive experience, and a cool experience to be a part of. Unfortunately, I didn’t get picked last year, but now I did. I think we’ve almost doubled the number of participants from last year to 109,000 trying to qualify this year. Now with Jan (Fehler) and Martin (Štefanko), I’m one of the 30 best guys in the world. That’s what excites me about esports, you’re competing against the best in the world.”

What preparations have you and the team made this season to prepare for the start of the series?

“We’ve practiced a lot together and at home. We’ve been in the factory also practicing just before the event. We’ve practiced in different conditions and with different set-ups.”

What are the strengths in the Haas F1 Team Esports line-up?

“I think our strength lies in that we’re all on the same pace, but we can all make each other quicker. We’ve also been fairly quick around all the circuits that have been announced.”

Where does the greatest competition lie and how do you see Haas F1 Team Esports performing?

“Mercedes has a great line-up, but I don’t think they’ll be that much quicker than last year as Daniel Bereznay went from there to Alfa Romeo. But Mercedes still have Brendon (Leigh), Daniel Shields and Patryk Krutyj. Our expectation is to be in the top-five, and to be scoring points consistently. Don’t count us out on race wins and good scoring positions, I think we can do it as well as our competition.”

Copyright 2019 WBTV. All rights reserved.