The Scuderia Ferrari Velas Esports Team had something to celebrate at the third round of the F1 Esports Series Pro Championship, as Brendon Leigh secured the team’s first podium finish of the season with a fine drive to third in tricky track conditions in race 3 at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas. It was the Englishman’s first podium since joining the Maranello squad, a well deserved reward for his tireless efforts, not just at the wheel, but as a team player, supporting his team-mates on the simulator and motivating the entire crew. Team performance over the three races gradually improved, with no points brought home from a very difficult Italian Grand Prix before Brendon recovered from a poor qualifying in Mexico to finish in the points thanks to an intelligent drive. Austin got off to a much better start with both Leigh and Fabrizio Donozo making it to Q3, which Brendon then converted into a points finish. There is still a long way to go for the team to reach the level to which it aspires, but finally there are signs that all the hard work is paying off.
Monza. In the Italian race, Brendon managed to make it through to the final stage of qualifying and lined up seventh, while David Tonizza got as far as Q2, having to settle for 12th on the grid. Leigh kept his place off the line, while David did well to move up to the points places as from lap 2, when he engaged in a hard fought duel with Marcel Kiefer. The Ferraris ran a longer first stint than many other which saw Brendon and David running as high as third and fifth. After pitting to go from Hard to Medium tyres, they dropped out of the top ten, but making the most of their fresher rubber, they staged an impressive climb up the order. Brendon got as high as eighth before being spun round by Sebastian Job. Tonizza demonstrated his class to make it to sixth place right behind Frederik Rasmussen. But there was bad news after the race, as David’s second lap fight with Kiefer earned him a 3 second penalty, dropping him to 12th and out of the points. After his collision, Brendon finished 15th. The race was won by Thomas Ronhaar (Haas F1 Team Esports).
Mexico City. Next up for the sim drivers was the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Qualifying did not go well, as David got no further than Q1, having to settle for 17th on the grid, while Brendon’s session ended with P13 in Q2. At the start, Tonizza hit former team-mate Filip Presnajder, whose car should have been a “ghost” as it’s known, having earlier spun out and that was his race over. Brendon bided his time on the Hard tyres, going longer than everyone else to lead the race before his first pit stop, rejoining on Mediums in 14th place. With much newer tyres than his rivals, Leigh was the fastest man on track in the closing stages, passing first Shanaka Clay and then Joni Tormala to finish tenth at the chequered flag, before being given the points for ninth place after Rasmussen got a penalty. Jarno Opmeer won for Mercedes AMG F1 Esports.
Austin. For the last race, Tonizza handed over to Fabrizio Donoso who was right on the pace, joining Leigh in Q3, the first time the team has got both cars into the top ten, thanks to a sixth with Brendon and an eighth with the young Chilean. The race began in the pouring rain. In the early stages, Fabrizio got ahead of Brendon, but the positions were soon reversed and the pair of them managed the situation for several laps, waiting for the right moment to switch to Intermediate tyres. The pit stops came just before half distance, with Brendon setting off in pursuit of his rivals at a great pace. However, Fabrizio had a problem with tyre selection in the pits and had to make an additional stop. With the track drying rapidly, Leigh in fifth, caught the leading group, passing Alvaro Carreton for fourth. Towards the end, another stop was required for dry tyres and a perfect strategy saw Brendon rejoining right behind the three drivers fighting for the lead – Bari Borumand, Thomas Ronhaar and Jarno Opmeer. The last lap was thrilling with the front three wheel to wheel and Brendon made the most of the chaos to claim third place and his first podium since 2019, his very first with Ferrari. Fabrizio finished 19th.
Brendon Leigh, Sim Driver #72
"Finishing the third event with a podium at COTA is an amazing result. We worked very hard for this and considering we only had three weeks to prepare, I think we can say the pace was there for all three races. We had some unfortunate situations and mistakes, but the Austin result proves we finally made it work as a team."
David Tonizza, Sim Driver #95
"I’d say it was a shame I could not qualify better for Monza, but the race was positive, I had fun and I think I drove well, despite the less than satisfactory result. I can’t say the same about Mexico. After two weeks preparing, I didn’t have the confidence right away and I struggled a lot. I think it was the toughest race of this event, but overall I’m reasonably satisfied, as we have the race pace and we must build on that."
Fabrizio Donoso, Sim Driver #8
"In qualifying for the last race, we proved we can get both cars into the top ten. It was a nice result and I’m sure we can maintain this standard to the end of the season. The whole team worked very hard for this and the test drivers also played their part. In the race I got a good start and was running behind Brendon. Then at the pit stop, there was a communication problem, which was a shame as we could have scored plenty of points with both cars. However, I’m very happy for the team for this well deserved podium."
Marco Matassa, Team Principal Scuderia Ferrari Velas Esports Team
"After this third round, it’s worth looking at the positives, which were not down to luck, but were the result of the hard work carried out by the whole team. In qualifying for Austin, we finally managed to get both cars to Q3, something we have been aiming for since the start of the season. Our race strategies were always spot on and so our drivers were always able to go on the attack in the final stages, thanks to newer tyres. It shows that teamwork always pays off and I expect this standard to now be maintained, so that we can expect the same level of performance in the final round of the season. Well done to the whole team, but a special word for Brendon, who truly deserved this podium finish, his first with us. He has become one of the pillars of the team, a motivating force during the long days of training. In Mexico and especially so in Austin, he raced like a lion, staying calm in the closing stages, with third place his reward and our first great result of the season."