Brendon Leigh starts off his title defense in the 2018 F1 New Balance Esports Pro Series with two wins, with a third snatched away on the final lap in Baku.
Leigh captured the first two races around Australia and China to victory at the GFinity Arena with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Esports Team, battling with team-mate Daniel Bereznay for victory in both races.
The final race of the evening in Baku saw the two Mercedes drivers on course to take another victory, but the Toro Rosso Esports driver Frederik Rasmussen was able to pass Leigh on the final lap, meters away from the finish line.
Australia saw the two Mercedes drivers dominant at the front with Leigh leading the charge ahead of team-mate Bereznay. The Hungarian’s hopes of victory were made difficult when he was given a time penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Leigh took victory with Bereznay crossing the line in second, but with his penalty demoted him to sixth. First overall pick and Williams Esports driver Tino Naukkarinen claimed second with Red Bull Racing Esports‘ Joni Tormala in third.
China saw Bereznay qualify on pole with Leigh down in fifth place in a wet qualifying session, but the reigning champion would make his mandatory pit stop later compare to his team-mate. On fresher tyres, Leigh was able to pass both Hype Energy eForce India drivers of Fabrizio Donoso Delgado and Marcel Kiefer before eventually passing Bereznay for the win and leading a Mercedes one-two. Kiefer took home the final podium spot in third.
The final race of the evening proved to be a thriller as the Toro Rosso driver of Rasmussen and Patrik Holzmann battled with both Mercedes drivers early in the race. By the pit stop period, Holzmann dropped down the field to a sixth place result, finishing behind the two McLaren Shadow‘s.
Rasmussen, who was undrafted after the Pro Draft but was picked up by Toro Rosso, remained a threat to the Mercedes of Leigh and Bereznay, who were aiming to claim another Mercedes one-two. The three drivers engaged in a thrilling battle for the lead with a handful of laps to go.
Leigh took over the lead from Rasmussen heading into the final lap, but the Toro Rosso stayed close within the DRS zones. After an attempt to pass Leigh around the outside of Turn 3, Bereznay closed up and tried to pass the Danish driver. Both drivers made contact with each other but Rasmussen remained ahead as he attempted to close down Leigh for the win.
Heading down the long straight, Rasmussen used the DRS and slipstream to pass Leigh within a few meters of the finish line and stopping Leigh on claiming a third win of the day.
McLaren’s Enzo Bonito, who was brought in after Australia for Olli Pahkala, was able to finish in fourth ahead of team-mate Bono Huis.
After three of the ten races now completed, Leigh heads the top of the drivers’ championship with 68 points to his name, with team-mate Bereznay in second with 41 points. Third is Rasmussen for Toro Rosso with 27 points ahead of Huis, Graham Carroll and Naukkarinen. Tormala and Kiefer share seventh place in the standings with 15 points ahead of Donoso Delgado and Renault Sport Team Vitality‘s James Doherty.
The second round which will host three mores races at Paul Ricard, Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps, which will take place on the 31st October.