It’s not often that a kitchen manager from the UK becomes a racing champion, but that’s exactly what happened to 17-year-old Brendon Leigh in Abu Dhabi.
One day before the real Formula 1 drivers suited up for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, 20 online gamers took part in the first ever F1 Esports Series Grand Final, which also took place in the United Arab Emirates. While approximately 60,000 people entered the online competition, only 20 of the best were flown to the island for the Grand Final.
While no prize money was given to the winner, first place would get their likeness featured in next year’s version of the video game. That person turned out to be Leigh, who had never been to a Grand Prix or even left the United Kingdom prior to his championship-winning performance.
With the title on the line, Leigh under braked at the end of the straightaway before the chicanes to pass rival Fabrizio Donoso Delgado from Chile. In an effort to make up time, Delgado cut a corner which resulted in a three second penalty. Realizing that his rival had just made a costly error, Leigh wagged his finger to admonish Delgado and that moment was caught on tape.
The overall goal of the F1 Esports Series was to attract more millennials and Generation Z fans to the sport. If you listen to GT Academy creator Darren Cox, this event did just that.
“Brendon drove like a true professional and his character shone through. Somehow his finger-wagging is already a GIF,” said Cox, according to Autosport.com. “I have been involved in the virtual side of our sport for 10 years and have seen it grow. The last seven days have really seen a tipping point.”