It's almost like Sebastian Vettel joining Ferrari as world champion... Oh, wait: that actually happened. The F1 Esports Series has seen perhaps the most spectacular driver transfer of all time ahead of the start of the 2021 season: Two-time world champion Brendon Leigh is moving from Mercedes to Ferrari.
2020 was a highlight for virtual motorsports, called sim-racing. Never before has interest in the esports category been so huge. In the F1 Esports Series, Dutchman Jan Opmeer of Alfa Romeo Racing was crowned world champion, while two-time title winner Brendon Leigh only finished in a disappointing sixth place - and is switching cockpits for the 2021 season.
Its beyond words to describe my excitement to join @FerrariEsports— Brendon Leigh (@BrendonLeigh72) January 18, 2021
I seriously couldn't be here without the support I have, I'm eternally grateful
Let's get on track and put lap times on the board #FerrariEsports pic.twitter.com/uvs6lqRWZu
Brandon Leigh Moves to Ferrari
Viewership of the 2020 F1 Esports Series went through the roof. 11.4 million people watched the twelve championship rounds on the live stream, 98 percent more than the year before. So it's no wonder that the sim racing series is already gearing up for the new season.
The driver carousel is spinning pretty fast in virtual Formula 1, too. Now perhaps the most spectacular transfer in the young history of the racing series has been announced: Two-time world champion Brandon Leigh is leaving Mercedes to join the FDA Hublot Esports Team (Ferrari).
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In 2017 and 2018, the 22-year-old Briton secured the title of World Drivers' Champion, but things have been less smooth for the professional in the past two seasons. Leigh only finished 6th in the past championship.
In 2021, Leigh wants to attack again and is completely turning his life around. In an interview with the website The Race, he reveals:
I do love Mercedes still and the memories I have with them I still hold very close to my heart,” Leigh told The Race. Obviously, we did have lots of success together, we won a drivers’ and constructors’ championship together, but I just felt it was time for a new challenge and Ferrari offered me that new challenge and opportunity.
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Two World Champions at Ferrari
While the Reds from Maranello are facing a season with many question marks in real Formula 1, the lineup of the in-house esports team could hardly look better. In addition to the newcomer Leigh, the Italian David Tonizza will also start for the FDA Hublot Esports Team in the coming season, who has also already won the F1 Esports Series in 2019.
World champion drivers among themselves, then, who are both keen to show what they're made of after a disappointing year. The pros don't have to worry about the engine power of their F1 cars, however, because all race cars in the F1 Esports Series have the same power.
Leigh is looking forward to working with his new teammate, as he reveals in the interview:
I think it’s going to be great working with Tonizza. Already since 2019 when he’s been in the series we’ve got along and we’ve been able to call each other friends. We’ve done a handful of training sessions together already and the team dynamic is amazing, it really is like a big, amazing family.
In 2021, Brandon Leigh wants to win his third title as World Drivers' Champion with Ferrari and lead Ferrari to the Constructors' World Championship. To achieve this, the esports native from Reading, England, is leaving his home country for the first time and moving to the vicinity of Ferrari's training facility in Maranello.
Read more about sim-racing and esports on EarlyGame. We have answered the most important questions about virtual motorsports and introduce you to the best steering wheels.
Original article by EarlyGame's Philipp Briel.