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Paddock people #5 : Nicolas Longuet, Esport Driver

A new month begins and with it, the 5th episode of the Les Gens du Paddock interview series! This month, meeting with Nicolas Longuet, e-sport driver for Team Renault Sport Vitality!


Hello Nicolas ! To begin with, can you introduce yourself to readers who may not know you?


I was born on June 8, 2002 in Turin, Italy. After living in Italy and South Africa, I now live near Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France. I attended the American School in Johannesburg and have just completed my BAC International (IB) at the International Bilingual School of Provence. I am therefore a little more anglophone than francophone. A little a lot even ...


Before talking about e-sport and sim-racing, can you tell us about your passion for motorsport?


My dad has been following Formula 1 all his life and quite naturally, so I ended up watching TV every Saturday and Sunday. We never miss a Grand Prix.


And concerning video games: when did your first memories of a racing game go back to and when did you click to make sim-racing your job?


Gran Turismo was the first racing game… on the 5th or 6th I believe, and then there was also F1 2011. I never wanted to make simracing a profession, I always wanted to go karting. My parents told me that they didn't want this life of spending all weekends on circuits, fixing the kart and then we didn't necessarily have the means. I played games like Call Of Duty online a lot on my PC and at the end of 2017 I discovered F1 Esports. When I saw them in their simulators, racing against each other in Abu Dhabi where the real F1 Grand Prix was taking place I thought, "This is what I want to do! ". At the beginning of 2018 I started to train, to participate in a few online tournaments but I was not of legal age to participate in the selections of F1 Esports 2018. I continued to improve myself, to win races , etc… I finished 2nd at the Electronic French Grand Prix at Le Castellet in June 2019 and I was finally able to qualify for the 2019 Pro Draft the following month when I was hired by RedBull and in 2019 we became Champions of the World by team. This is my greatest personal satisfaction today. That of having been able to realize my dream of being recognized among the best simracer in the world.


So you drive for Team Vitality which is of course affiliated with Renault Sport. Can you explain to us what a simracer experiences outside of virtual races? Is the program as busy as for a real pilot?


As with Formula 1, we have low and high season. The low season lasts 4 to 5 months between the end of the Pro Series in December and the launch of the new F1 game the following year. In the meantime we participate in other events on other simracing platforms. This year with the confinement and the boom in virtual races, it was very busy. In addition to the F1 exhibition races, a few races on iRacing with Formula Renault, I also took part in the virtual 24h of Le Mans with the Signatech-Alpine team on Rfactor 2.


In high season it's super intense. We are based in Enstone as part of the F1 team where we have access to the same structures and training as Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo. Physical training, mental coaching, stress management and performance add to the long hours of simracing training.


Nicolas behind the wheel of his simulator on the F1 2019 game



The fact of representing Renault virtually allowed you to maintain contacts with the F1 team, perhaps even to be involved in events where Renault Sport enters cars (in F1 or in any what other category)?


I've only been on the team for a few months and with the health situation we faced I haven't had the opportunity to participate in real events, most of which have been canceled. But I have contacts with the F1 team like Esteban Ocon. We both participated in an online event for Renault Sport. We trained a lot together for the Virtual GP of Monaco, which unfortunately he was unable to take part in due to a technical problem.


My goal being to have the opportunity, one day, to be able to drive real cars, I wanted to be part of a constructor team like Renault. A brand involved in motorsport and present in other categories such as Formula Renault or the Clio Cup.


Always to stay in this link between the virtual and the real, has simracing opened the doors to real racing? Have you ever had the opportunity to take the step from virtual to real?


Not yet, but that's my goal. Like I said before, I think I'm in the best team possible so that one day I can have the chance to put myself behind a wheel.


A few years ago, Nissan and the game Gran Turismo gave young people the opportunity to start a career in motorsport. Do you think that in the future, e-sport could become a real gateway to motorsport, especially for young people who did not have the chance or the means to start in the small categories?


I can only answer YES! I really think this can become another real gateway. With a console and two or three hundred euros, a lot of kids like me can start simracing from their bedroom. It's much more accessible. Obviously, there will always be the way of karting but there are so many similarities between simracing and reality such as reflexes, trajectories, braking points, steering wheel reactions, stress management, etc. may that materialize. Some simracers have already taken the leap between the real and the virtual, but it is not yet a "recognized" path.


Still in the shadows a few years ago, professional simracing has become a very serious matter, in particular thanks to increasingly realistic simulations (I am thinking of iRacing which has become a reference for many pilots and teams) , What is the next step ?


I think before we talk about the next step, we have to develop the current step further. The championships on the various platforms are still niches. Maybe one day we will see 20 pilots in an arena with 10 to 20 thousand spectators like in League Of Legends type games. It would be really great!


Last question: could simracing one day replace real motorsport?


As a complement or a discipline in its own right, yes. But replacing it, I hope not ... I want to smell the oil, see the smoke coming from my brakes and feel the air against my helmet ...


Thanks to Nicolas Longuet for giving his time to DriveThrough during this period of online events and see you next month for a new interview

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