Racing sims pride themselves on accuracy. That’s not really a secret. But Gran Turismo might have just won a lot of Internet arguments thanks to Jann Mardenborough.
Mardenborough has been in the news before, most notably for driving like an experienced pro in other forms of racing vehicles, and winning several Gran Turismo tournaments. But this marks the first time anybody who’s trained on a gaming console has transitioned to F1, according to The Guardian:
Mardenborough’s rise is unusual because up until two and a half years ago he had never seriously competed in motorsport. Following a successful test with Arden in November, after competing in the British and European Formula Three Championships last season, Mardenborough is now effectively part of the Red Bull stable.
To give you an idea of how unusual this is, the average path for an F1 driver is to start with karting and work their way up through various types of race cars until they demonstrate enough skill to be in F1. Essentially, Mardenborough jumped straight to the front of the line in a process that normally takes years. To be fair, Nissan helped out considerably, putting Mardenborough behind the wheel of race cars they’ve built, but the majority of his training has been with driving virtual cars on a virtual track.
It’s important beyond just being a feather in Sony’s cap. The claim that video games can teach actual, real-world skills is an incredibly controversial one in many quarters, for reasons both political and scientific. Although video games undeniably have their virtues when it comes to learning, it was unclear whether that translated to physical skill.
In at least one case, however, it genuinely has. If Mardenborough can hold his own as part of the Red Bull team, it’s going to have a lot of implications for gaming and education.