This weekend, the Bugatti Circuit of Le Mans will host one of the most intriguing races of all motorsport’s history. 22 YouTube and Twitch content creators with zero racing experience will drive the Mygale M21 used in the French F4 Championship. F1 Feeder Series takes a closer look at this revolutionary experiment.
By Perceval Wolff
Lucas Hauchard, better known as “Squeezie”, is France’s biggest YouTube content creator with more than 17 million subscribers. Like many, he fell in love with motorsport and Formula 1 with the Netflix series Drive To Survive. As a gamer, he also played the official F1 games, even being invited to an F1 Esports Pro Exhibition race with Alpine, along many other influencers, F1 drivers, and even football stars.
Squeezie continued to discover more about Formula 1 and the various paths drivers take to reaching the pinnacle of motorsport. His focus turned to organising an F4 race with other YouTubers. What seemed to be an impossible dream, finally became reality in April 2022, when Squeezie announced on Twitch that the Grand Prix Explorer will take place on October 8th, with the approval of the French Federation (FFSA) and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), the organisation behind the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
22 drivers with zero racing experience
The 22 drivers all come from the French-speaking YouTube and Twitch scene and have no experience in single-seaters. However, they have been intensively training in the FFSA Academy’s facilities at Le Mans. Physical training, theory classes, testing, testing, testing… all these content creators have been pretty busy during the last six months. Drivers are also receiving guidance from feeder series drivers, such as Hadrien David and Esteban Masson who sharing their knowledge of the Bugatti Circuit.
Given his love for the sport, Squeezie is expected to be one of the favourites, and the fact that he was the first of the drivers to test the Gen2 F4 car last year under the tutelage of F2 driver Théo Pourchaire. But Pierre-Olivier Valette (Depielo) is the clear favourite, due to his knowledge of racing garnered through his 282,000 YouTube subscribers. A big advantage in terms of understanding the car and managing a race, compared to his rivals. Famous people from the Esports scene will also be present, such as Gotaga aka The French Monster, who became famous on an international level thanks to his Call of Duty achievements.
A commercial success
The 22 drivers will form 11 teams, that will each have their own livery. The teams are sponsored by some automobile-related companies (Alpine, Cupra, Oscaro), by some video games (World of Tanks, PUBG…), or even some organizations very far from any competition (Fruitz, NordVPN, Rhinoshield…).
The GP Explorer is already a commercial success. 20,000 tickets released to attend this race were sold in less than 3 days, and 20,000 more tickets were sold two months later. Given the audience of Squeezie but also of all the famous drivers involved, the race that will be broadcast on Twitch is set to break viewing records.
What to think about the GP Explorer?
This event seems to have been well organized, with a subtle marriage of the pure “Gaming/YouTube/Twitch” scene and of the French motorsport one, as the commentators will come from these two universes with many professional drivers involved in the process. The day is going to be one to remember, with so many young fans discovering motorsport in such a great atmosphere.
Even though the racing may not be the most spectacular given the experience of the drivers, they are all passionate, dedicated, with the will to perform. They don’t want to transform the race into a clown show. Most of them know the main challenge will be to finish the race incident free, but some of them know they can challenge for the win. They know their strengths, but they also know their (numerous) weaknesses, which is expected considering their lack of racing experience.
When you see F1 drivers on TV, you can assume it’s easy. But when you are in the [F4] car, you quickly understand how big the gap is between them and us.Twitch streamer, Xari
“I already had an immense respect for all the drivers, but now that I’m driving the F4, it’s so amplified. These guys are all legends, they are all war machines” explained Squeezie. Twitch streamer Xari agreed with his colleague: “When you see F1 drivers on TV, you can assume it’s easy. But when you are in the car, you quickly understand how big the gap is between them and us.”
Even if the event is organized with good intentions, it’s not enough to silence the critics, especially from the people who work in the racing industry. “They will be driving the same cars as the French F4 drivers. If they break the cars, if there is any big crash, there could be big problems, with the French F4 final round coming the weekend just after…” said an anonymous source from a racing school to F1 Feeder Series.
And even if all the amateur drivers have been training for months and have been progressing throughout the test sessions, how will they react with the intensity of a race start? They have just been doing qualifying simulations and race stints, but a race start with the 22 cars packed all together into Turn 1 of the Bugatti Circuit… could be dangerous.
Big name sponsors are associating themselves with the GP Explorer, such as TikTok, Deezer and many other companies. When we know that money is essential in racing and it would have been great to see these sponsors or the GP Explorer drivers, helping the French F4 drivers through collaborations with them on their YouTube or Twitch channels. The relation between the FFSA Academy and the GP Explorer seems to be in only one direction. Maybe it could change in the coming years if the race returns?
All the racing action will take place on October 8th, and everything will be broadcast on Squeezie’s Twitch channel (https://www.twitch.tv/squeezie). All sessions will be streamed, with the live starting at 8AM CET, qualifications at 10AM and the race at 5PM.
Header photo credit: P. Blin Kernivinen
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