'The Williams Metaverse land' - F1 team plans to bring fans into the garage and more via virtual reality


Williams Racing announces Terra Virtua as its official Metaverse partner in a new way to create fan engagement for Formula 1

Williams-Terra VirtuaWhatsApp Image 2022-05-06 at 4.26.53 PM

Picture this: on Sunday, you’ve switched the television on, you have a drink and snack in hand, and the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix is about the commence.

However, what if, in ten years time, you are watching through a Virtual Reality set with greater insight into how things are happening – as if you were on the pit wall?

You can hear every radio message, have a clear knowledge of each race strategy, virtually attend the social gatherings, and travel onboard with a 34-year-old Max Verstappen, who attempts to hold off the up-and-coming, young hotshot in the principality.

This is what Terra Virtua has set out to do after recently announcing its new multi-year partnership with Williams Racing.

Williams announces Terra Virtua as its official Metaverse partner

The collaboration will pin an absolute focus on fan engagement through interactive experiences in virtual environments.

Jawad Ashraf, CEO of Terra Virtua, told Motor Sport: “You can actually be down at the pits and be looking around seeing what’s going on, you can see from different angles what’s happening in the real world, you can also see things happening in the digital world, see the crew, be there for after the event, be there for the afterparties.

“Even with our earliest demos, you were actually able to sit behind the car and be part of that race. So really, the sky’s the limit, there’s all sort of things we can do.

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“This is a level of engagement that will really up the fan base, make them feel part of the experience and not only feel like they’re there, but have them doing really cool things.

“Not only can people be watching the races, but they can be simultaneously racing in their own virtual leagues. We’re dropping you this gift.”

These virtual races will be similar to esports but in the Metaverse with prizes up for grabs, the aim being to combine the online community and the fans of Williams, who can then engage with one another.

“We can create a league which is run in parallel to the F1, underpinned by Williams cars,” he added.

“It would be like a Metaverse sports league that shadows races happening in the real world. So now you’re engaging and bringing in a whole generation of people into the motor sport industry who have never had the interest before, and you marry the two elements together.

“So the Williams race is happening, these are the drivers racing, that’s ahead but we’re going to do a headline race in the Metaverse shadowing it.

“But you can do different things, so rather than have the Williams team, you have multiple teams based around all of the Williams cars.

MONTE-CARLO - Alexander Albon (23) driving the Williams FW44 and Pierre Gasly (10) driving the AlphaTauri AT03 during the formation lap of the F1 Grand Prix of Monaco at Circuit de Monaco on May 29, 2022 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. REMKO DE WAAL (Photo by ANP via Getty Images)

Williams fans could soon become immersed in the action on a whole new level

ANP via Getty Images

“We want to extend it so that Williams will have its own Metaverse land, which is themed around motor racing and we have motor sport buildings where people are able to buy their own garages in the Metaverse.

“Having all of this stuff around, inviting their friends in and then watching the races on a massive auditorium that is happening in real time.

“So there is the potential here to create parallel leagues underpinned with the DNA of Williams, while making the existing races more engaging and increasing viewership numbers.”

This all sounds thrilling, but what is the realistic timeline it a (virtual) reality? For something that sounds so futuristic, movements are actually being made at the time of writing and the Williams Metaverse land is looking as though it will come into place this forthcoming summer.

“We’re going to be aiming to launch our Metaverse in July,” Ashraf said. “This year you’re going to see the first races happen with F1 cars in the Metaverse, so it’s all happening in the next six months.

“You’re going to have Metaverse racing, you’re going to have your own garages and our mobile application is finally being approved by Apple as well.

“So everything I’m talking about isn’t on a larger horizon, we’re talking about month by month by month from July onwards.”

To access and partake in this, a dedicated Williams marketplace portal will be created which will also include general information about the team and its cars.

CAPITO Jost, Chief Executive Officer of Williams Racing, portrait during the Formula 1 Heineken Australian Grand Prix 2022, 3rd round of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship, on the Albert Park Circuit, from April 8 to 10, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia - Photo Antonin Vincent / DPPI

Want to sit on the pit wall with Jost and co whilst the big decisions are made?

Antonin Vincent / DPPI

Aside from that, in his discussion with Motor Sport, Ashraf spoke about how this could signal a change in the sponsor game considering the COVID-19 pandemic.

Economies have been severely affected, businesses are now more reluctant to spend money if the return of investment isn’t strong, so this has pinned a greater focus on engagement.

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According to the Terra Virtua CEO, Williams understood this and accept that the market is now undergoing a change where the more engagement one company has, the better it is for the long term aspirations as a business.

Because of such, F1 may start a new trend where Crypto, Metaverse and Virtual Reality firms start to dominate the sport’s sponsorship, like tobacco companies did in the 1990s, or websites in the early 2000s.

“What was good about Williams is that they really thought about it and they were like, ‘Okay, we’re not about getting insane chunks of money, we’re about growth, fan base, and providing something to our fans’,” Ashraf says.

“That in itself is a big deal because not all brands care about their fans. You’re going to see Crypto companies, blockchain companies, Metaverse companies, all come into the space wanting to get a piece of the pie.

“It’s like the early days of Dotcom, there were lots of companies, but only the ones who really focused on the customer and were in it for the long term, are still ahead.”

Williams' Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi signs autographs to the fans as he arrives for the 2022 Formula One Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne on April 10, 2022. - -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by Con Chronis / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by CON CHRONIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Williams is seeking long-terms benefits from great volumes and depth of fan engagement

AFP via Getty Images

Therefore, Williams and Terra Virtua could end up being pioneers in the sponsor game for Formula 1 considering Ashraf believes the market will only grow.

“People are inevitably going to start following,” he added. “We really want to be together with Williams to level it up and as we do so, people will see brand new ways to interact with F1 as a whole.”