We had the chance to speak to defending F1 Esports champion David Tonizza and two-time champion Brendon Leigh ahead of the start of the F1 Esports Pro Series 2020.
Photo credit: Formula 1 Game Twitter / Chris Dart
Bahrain, Vietnam and China will play host to the first round of the F1 Esports Pro Series 2020 this Wednesday and Thursday. Longer races and full qualifying are among the new additions, but the championships are likely to be as closely fought as ever.
Ferrari’s David Tonizza enters the season as the reigning champion, becoming the first driver to beat Brendon Leigh to the drivers’ title. Leigh returns for his third season with Mercedes, who is hoping to wrestle the teams’ championship back from 2019 victors Red Bull Racing Esports Team.
World champions hungry as ever
Tonizza will be hoping to avoid a repeat of Leigh’s difficult title defence, and he believes that the pressure is no greater heading into this season than any other year despite his 2019 title victory. Going into the tournament, the world champion comments:
 was the first year so I had to get really great results because it was Ferrari. This year, I need to defend my title, but I don’t think there will be more pressure, it’s the same every year. I’m representing a huge brand so I just have to give everything and the pressure is just the same as last year.
Leigh only visited the podium twice last season, but he did win the Chinese round of the F1 Esports Pro Exhibition series earlier this year. He’s relishing the opportunity to mix it with the best drivers on F1 2020 for the series’ biggest-ever prize pool:
2019 wasn’t ideal and the Pro Exhibition series was a bit closer to what we would have liked, but I didn’t lose any confidence through last year. So, I didn’t really have any confidence to gain through [winning a race in] the Pro Exhibition. In general, my confidence is quite high going into this 2020 season. I look forward to it, because who wouldn’t enjoy racing against the top people in esports.
Leigh has a new team-mate alongside him at Mercedes, as sim racing legend Bono Huis switches from McLaren to Mercedes. Tonizza also has two new team-mates in Enzo Bonito – team-mate to Huis last year – and rookie Filip Presnajder.
Last season, Tonizza scored all 184 of Ferrari’s points and consequently the team was unable to prevent Red Bull taking the teams’ title. “Last year my team-mates didn’t have a great season. They were really fast in some tracks, but they didn’t manage to score any points,” reflects the world champion and goes on: “The constructor championship will be a lot different this year compared to the other one. I’m really confident about the constructors’ championship this year and I know it will be different and a lot harder compared to the last one.”
Who’s this year’s favorite?
Tonizza and Leigh are far from the only contenders this season. Tonizza is quick to point to Jarno Opmeer. The former real-world Renault junior left the French manufacturer’s esports team and has joined forces with Daniel Bereznay at Alfa Romeo. “There are many. If I had to name one, I’d say Jarno, because last year, he was really quick and on the test races we had this season, we saw that he’s insanely fast,” marvels the Italian and adds: “With Daniel as his team-mate, Alfa Romeo has the strongest line-up in my opinion.”
Leigh wouldn’t be drawn on one name as he believes the title fight is wide open:
Everyone is a challenger really. You have 20 cars, and these teams aren’t signing people just for the sake of it, these teams are signing people because they believe them to be the best person for the seat. In F1 Esports, the grid is so competitive, everyone has a chance. Of course, you can pick out your favorites, like Alfa or any other team you’d like to pick. Ultimately it will be down to who does it on track.
We’ll find out who does it on track when the 2020 F1 Esports Pro Series roars into life on Wednesday at 4.30 PM CEST. You can watch the event live on F1’s official Facebook, YouTube and Twitch channels on October 14-15. For more info on how to watch visit the official F1 Esports website.
Who is your favorite this season? Tell us on Twitter at @overtake_gg!