By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - All Formula One teams, with the exception of Ferrari, have committed to setting up their own esports outfits to compete in the second edition of the virtual world championship this season.
A Formula One spokesman said, however, that talks with Ferrari remained ongoing and there was still a possibility that the sport's most successful and glamorous team could participate.
"They want to be involved but just said they were not ready yet," he added.
A Ferrari spokesman agreed that anything could still happen: "It's not a no, we just need some more time to evaluate everything," he said.
Formula One said in a statement ahead of this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix that the eSports Series format had been changed from the inaugural season, with qualifiers starting this month.
Nine gamers will eventually qualify for the 'Pro Draft' with each guaranteed a slot at one of the nine F1 teams who are participating in the second half of the season.
A pool of 40 drivers will be formed also via the qualifiers and be available for selection.
The drivers selected by teams compete in three live events to decide the virtual drivers' and teams' world championships with a prize fund of at least $200,000.
"It has always been our goal to get the teams involved as soon as possible and we are delighted that they have recognized the potential of the F1 Esports Series at such an early stage," said Julian Tan, F1's head of digital growth and esports.
British teenager Brendon Leigh became Formula One's first eSports champion last November after winning the finale in Abu Dhabi.
The 18-year-old, who had never before left Britain or attended a Formula One race, came out on top of 20 finalists competing at the finals inside the F1 paddock.
More than 63,000 hopefuls worldwide had entered the competition initially by competing in the Codemasters-developed F1 2017 video game on PlayStation4, Xbox One and Windows PC platforms.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)