AN IRVINE teenager is aiming to follow in the virtual footsteps of his hero Lewis Hamilton as he gears up towards the start of the Formula 1 Esports Pro Series.

Lucas Blakeley, 19, is one of just 30 drivers worldwide to be selected by F1 teams to compete in the virtual races which offer a prize fund of $750,000.

The former Greenwood Academy pupil will race for the BWT Racing Point F1 Esports Team when the 12-round season starts later this week.

The 19-year-old began karting when he was younger before being forced to give up on his dream of reaching F1 due to the financial costs that come with motorsport.

However, the rise of Esports has given him a new opportunity to conquer the virtual world of racing.

Lucas told the Times: “Having an F1 team behind you is a very privileged position to be in. To be one of only 30 people in the world to have this job and opportunity and to be classified as one of the best is just a crazy thought.

“I raced in go-karts when I was younger and I had to stop for financial reasons like a lot of other racers who aspire to be F1 drivers have to.

“I found Esports a way to do what I love just in the virtual world.There is a huge crossover between both as the skills and the mindset and the principles of racing are the same. The lines between the two get closer and closer and it will continue to do so in the future.”

Lucas has set his sights high for the championship after he won his first F1 Esports race on the famous streets of Monaco earlier this year as part of an exhibition series during lockdown which kept motorsport fans entertained without any on track action due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The teenager says he draws inspiration from his idol Lewis Hamilton who is aiming to match Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven world championships this season.

He said: “I am here to win and not here just to be a part of it. That’s never been my mindset. I want to be competing for wins and podiums and I would love to compete for the championship but it’s impossible to compare yourself until the first event.

“Lewis has been my inspiration my whole life. He is the guy that made me want to start racing and he inspires me to do what I do at the level I do it.”

This article was first published in the Irvine Times on October 13.