Lando Norris using his driving simulator, is one of the best esports drivers on the grid ©Lando Norris

Formula One have announced the Virtual Grand Prix Series featuring several of the sport's drivers as a replacement for the postponed 2020 F1 season which has been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend, the gaming series will feature a number of drivers from the grid racing each other online in place of the cancelled or postponed races.

Under the current schedule, the series will end in May, but could run longer if the season continues to be postponed. 

Each driver will race remotely for health and safety reasons while a broadcast will be live from the Gfinity Esports Arena with the drivers yet to be announced.

The series will use the F1 2019 PC game, developed by Codemasters, and the first race at the Sakhir circuit will be played at 50 per cent of the race distance - 28 laps.

Qualifying will also take part prior to the race and will be based on the quickest posted time with the stream set to be hosted on Facebook, YouTube and Twitch.

During non-race weekends, F1 will be hosting online exhibition races where fans can have the opportunity to race the drivers with information coming over the next couple of weeks. 

Julian Tan, head of digital business intiatives and eSports said, "We are very pleased to be able to bring some light relief in the form of the F1 Esports Virtual GP, in these unpredictable times, as we hope to entertain fans missing the regular sporting action.

"With every major sports league in the world unable to compete, it is a great time to highlight the benefits of esports and the incredible skill that's on show."

Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen and McLaren F1's Lando Norris pioneered the Series after they both, along with a number of top racing drivers around the world including Juan Pablo Montoya, created a similar race when the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled last week.

Among those involved in last week's virtual races was Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Provisionally, the F1 calendar will start with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku on June 7.