Tiziano Brioni (left) and Gianfranco Giglioli will both race to become the first F1 Esports Series champion in Abu Dhabi. (James Pike photo)
Given their rich history in Formula 1, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that Italy are well represented in the Finals of the inaugural Formula 1 Esports Series.
Gianfranco Giglioli and Tiziano Brioni both qualified for the event in Abu Dhabi off the back of four top-five finishes at the two semifinal races, held in October at London’s GFinity Esports Arena.
Giglioli and Brioni both had eventful roads to the Finals. “My race day started very bad, because my qualifying was a disaster, because I made a lot of mistakes, and then in Race 1, someone made me spin out and put me off the track”, Giglioli said. “But I came back from 10 seconds behind everyone to finish fifth.”
“I was a bit lucky, but that gave me more confidence in myself for the second race. In the second race, I started fourth and I was in a decent place. I stayed behind Tiziano because I didn’t want to take a risk early, but I got around him on the last lap!
Giglioli can be found on Twitter at @ITA_VEN and credits the late Ayrton Senna as his motor sport hero.
Brioni felt his race day unfolded in a similar fashion. “The story of my qualification was similar to Gianfranco’s”, Brioni said.
“I started from P7 in the first race in the rain. In the first turn, I was in the middle of the three-car sandwich. But I knew the car to my outside was a little bit slower than me, so I saw the opportunity and I took it.”
“Then I saw that the next two drivers ahead of me changed to the intermediate tyres a lap too late, so I was able to get around them both, though racing Harry Jacks was tough!”
“The second race was a little bit harder because of the supersofts. I don’t have very good pace on those tyres, and I saw four drivers coming up behind me, so I just tried to control my race as best I could.”
For both Italians, the opportunity to compete alongside the real-life Formula 1 season finale in Abu Dhabi is nothing short of special.
“I am happy to have qualified. I couldn’t believe it at the end of the race”, said Giglioli. “I was crying, but it was a happy cry, you know?”
Gianfranco is particularly looking forward to the chance to earn his place in the F1 2018 video game. The inaugural F1 Esports Series champion will have their head scanned and will be included as a customisable driver in next year’s release from Codemasters.
“It’s a dream”, he said. “I want to thank Formula 1 for giving us this opportunity because it’s something new, something special, to make us characters in the game. It’s a new form of competition. And yeah, the first-ever Formula 1 champion was Italian, so we’re looking forward to seeing what will happen.”
Brioni’s Twitter handle is @TizianoBrioni37. He is also a Senna fan and loves racing most at Suzuka, where Senna was a two-time winner of the Japanese Grand Prix.
For Tiziano, even he was surprised to have qualified, but it was a pleasant surprise nonetheless.
“I arrived in London without any target. I just wanted to do the best that I could”, Brioni said. “But I hit my target and I am so happy to go to Abu Dhabi. I feel like my chances to win are slim, but I’ll do my best to win and we’ll see what happens.”
Of course, both drivers have plenty of support from home. For Gianfranco, Venezuela also counts as home, since it is his nation of birth.
“My family in Italy and Venezuela got out of work and lectures early to watch me race, and that was really special,” he said. “They were so happy for me when they called me later!”
As is the case with many of the finalists, Gianfranco also maintains a presence on his own YouTube channel. “My YouTube fans are great too. I’m not the biggest YouTuber, I only have 800 subscribers, but it’s something!”
Tiziano has been watching day-by-day, and is learning the ways of social media from his compatriot.
“I’m not really active on social media, so I came to London without much publicity”, Brioni said. “I’ve tried to go through this experience and treat it as a normal day.
“Gianfranco’s YouTube channel is far better than mine, because I only have 12 subscribers! I don’t have many supporters, but they are good. Who knows though, because with this run, maybe my popularity can grow!”
Should he or Gianfranco win the F1 Esports Series Finals, it is a safe bet that their popularity – both online and in real life – will grow immensely.