Turkish driver Cem Bölükbaşı is the first Formula 1 Esports driver to graduate from virtual racing to the FIA Formula 2 Championship, having signed with Charouz Racing System.
Bölükbaşı placed fifth under Toro Rosso in the 2017 Formula 1 Esports Series and joined G2 Esports in late 2017 as a professional sim racer, competing in several virtual races throughout the 2018 season.
He failed to improve upon his performance in the competitive gaming tournament’s 2018 season, placing 12th after only taking part in four out of the 10 races. 2019 was even worse for the racer, claiming 21st place.
Fast-forward to 2022 however, and after a solid stint in the F3 Asian Championship the year prior, Bölükbaşı is now officially the first F1 Esports driver to graduate to the Formula 2 — the second-tier championship organized by the FIA.
The Turkish racer has predominantly spent his time in sports cars in recent years, opting to make it in ‘real’ racing instead of virtual competitions.
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The 2022 season of Formula 2 features 14 races, some of which in major cities such as Barcelona, Abu Dhabi, and Monte Carlo. Bölükbaşı will represent Charouz Racing System, a racing team from the Czech Republic, in the circuit.
“I haven’t really had time to let it sink in,” said Bölükbaşı. “I think the realization is kicking in more and more every hour. It was a big dream that has actually happened, so it’s quite difficult to put into words, but it’s very exciting and I’m very happy.
“If I was never in F1 Esports, I would never have had the chance to get into a real car – I would not be where I am now. I think it’s also very important to be the first gamer to do this, because it can give people hope. If people see that one person can do it, they will believe they can do it as well… If I can go from F1 Esports to FIA Formula 2, I think anyone can.”