Raceday Essentials: McLaren’s reigning F1 Esports champion Lucas Blakeley
Published May 4, 2023
by Jack Benyon
It’s rare that you get to speak to an F1 world champion.
Scottish-born Lucas Blakeley is the reigning Formula 1 Esports title winner, driving for McLaren, in what is one of racing’s most hotly contested and fine-margin-decided series.
While our race weekend essentials feature usually involves drivers who are travelling from track to track, Blakeley’s racing career is a bit more complicated given his ‘car’ – or sim rig, in this case – is set-up at McLaren’s legendary technical centre in Woking.
Podium Life caught up with the champ – who drives for the team’s gaming arm McLaren Shadow – to find out more about him and the tech that drives him to victory.
Your race day essentials probably look a bit different to an at-the-track competitor. What are your race day essentials?
Our essentials are, PC computer equipment, as we race on the PC platform, which is what the 1 Esports Series is based on.
You’re going to need a headset, I use this exact one actually, my Logitech Pro X.
Headset is essential. It’s all about marginal details as well, so you’ve got to have a comfortable headset, because you’re gonna be wearing it all the time.
Mouse and keyboard easy to access as well. I’ll always have my Logitech keyboard and mouse ready to go. That makes life so much easier, which is really, really useful.
You’ll obviously have your racing equipment, you’ve got your rig, your monitor, your wheel and your pedals, all that stuff onto the rig, and then everything slots together.
Do you have anything superstitious with you for a race?
Well, there’s some things you do subconsciously. Anytime I get into a go-kart, it’s always from the left. So anytime I get into my sim rig, it’s from the left side.
I don’t have superstitions, but I have things like habits, I’m not doing it for a luck-based reason, for peace of mind, mental preparation, feeling good physically.
On race days in F1 Esports, I will go for a run in the morning whether it’s on my treadmill or outside. Have a cold shower as well, because I feel it’s really good to clear the mind. Doing things that made me feel good and having a nice breakfast, very simple things that make me feel in a good condition.
Because when you feel good, you can often perform good. So I just try and make myself feel as comfortable as possible on a raceday. So these are sort of habits, I guess you could say, that I would do.
Wearing gloves and boots or not seems to be something that divides the sim community. Where do you stand on that?
For me personally, I don’t use any gloves or boots. It’s kind of interesting when you think of the contrast because, it’s not even a consideration in a go-kart and a real car.
It’s not even a thought and they sort of just feel like the normal extension of your body. Again, it’s preference as well. There’s no correct answer, depends on a few factors. But, just hands on the wheel, I just try and give myself as much feel as I can.
In sim racing, that’s just what I’m comfortable with.
Is there anything you use for fitness, or anything you have nearby, because you can be on the sim all day sometimes
I love a cup of tea and I’ll usually have one before, like a qualifying or before a race. That’s not like super ritualistic, but I like to have tea, in general, just to keep me a tiny bit more sharper, not aggressively full of caffeine, but it’s simple things like that.
You can’t beat a bowl of porridge, sets you up well for the day. It all comes back to the same principle of making yourself feel good, whether it’s physically, mentally, you’re in a position for a long time, under high stress, heart rates are high.
When I’m not in the rig, I’ll stretch or I will just try and make sure that I don’t have any cramps or anything like that as well. Which also comes to hydration as well. So making sure I’m really hydrated.
I guess it boils down to the simple things but you do all of them as well as you can.
Let’s get into your equipment a bit more. Can you run us through what you’re using on the sim at the MTC, when you’re racing professionally?
When I’m at the McLaren Technology Centre, the Shadow Studio, we’ve got our partners such as Alienware who provide the PCs for us. They’re really super high spec, the best of the best when it comes to the graphics cards and CPUs.
We also have Alienware ultra-wide monitors for engineers to use when we’re competing as well. They have our sim rigs set up at the front of the room and then we have a row of desks where our engineers work, our strategist works.
The keyboards and the mouse, the Logitech equipment, it’s all good stuff. We have the Alienware monitors for engineers, because we don’t, as drivers, use ultra-wide monitors, we typically use the normal 16×9 aspect ratio.
So we had during last season, I believe it was the Dell 240hz monitor. Refresh rate is super important for us, one millisecond input delay or response time.
We have the Logitech wheel and pedals, which go on to our sim rigs. That’s what we use when we go to MTC. We have the Logitech direct drive, recently released as well, which I’ve had the pleasure of using a few times. It’s good fun to use, good fun to drive.
When we’re competing and F1 Esports when we need to look at strategy, and data, which is super important for the sort of the behind the scenes stuff, we also have Splunk, that provides us with really useful dashboards and information, it gives us a whole other world of perspective as drivers.
We have a singular perspective, right? We just see it from our eyes only, we have our interpretation of our race but when you have data from Splunk, which is usually critical for us to make strategy decisions, to debrief from races, to understand, analyse where we are gaining and losing, and what we can then do to improve on that, that is hugely, hugely important.
All these things are what ultimately, combined, give us the ultimate set-up, if you like, if that’s what you want to call it, it’s what gives us the gives us the tools to do the job. We’re really fortunate to have those partners who help us along the way.