THE hunt for the next Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen is beginning in Bolton.

The University of Bolton's National Centre for Motorsport Engineering will play host to the F4 Esports Programme.

Young drivers have the chance to win one of two fully-funded real-world driving seats in the 2023 ROKiT F4 British Championship, tackling one of five iconic international circuits.

Applications are now being sought from 14 and 15-year-olds - the fastest 16 qualifiers will be invited to drive on the ROKiT Racing Star Esports digital simulator at a grand final in May, at the university's motorsports engineering auditorium.

The £13m motorsports centre is the only one of its kind in the UK. Students there recently celebrated a double win for their team in the Historic Classic F1 races at Silverstone, with professional driver Michael Lyons at the wheel.

Bob Fernley, deputy team principal of the Force India Formula One team, said of the ROKiT challenge: “The chance for talented young Esport drivers to compete for and win fully-funded actual Formula 4 drives has never been available before and, as such, we’re confident we’ll have many youngsters competing in the free to enter and free to play a series of digital sim races over the next few months.

“We hope to see genuine driving talent emerge through the programme, which otherwise might not have been discovered and will hopefully, continue the world-beating legacy of British drivers excelling in motor-sport, up to and including Formula 1”

Promoters say one boy and one girl will then be crowned the 2022 ROKiT Racing Stars, and will then receive professional driver coaching and training from Motorsport UK and the Hitech Race Team Academy.

The aim will then be for them to qualify for an FIA Competition Licence, leading to them being awarded fully funded seats in the ROKiT Formula 4 Racing Team, competing in the 2023 British F4 Championship.

Those interested in taking part in the challenge can go online to for more details.