Formula 1 is one of the most popular sports in the world, despite the fact that only 24 drivers can participate at any one time. It’s a sport that relies on capturing the imagination of its fans, and using the performance of the drivers to keep the public coming back for more and more.
This is relatively unique. Take football for example, there isn’t much difference between a Sunday league, where anybody can turn up and play, and the top league in any given country. In theory, if you perform well in the Sunday league you can move up to the next level, and so on until you’re at the top.
This is much harder to accomplish in motorsport. The pyramid is significantly narrower—just the 24 drivers sit at the top—and the cost of getting anywhere near Formula 1 is prohibitively expensive.
This is why the official Formula 1 game, F1 2011, is so welcome to fans of the sport.
For not very much money you can drive any of the 12 Formula 1 cars at all 19 circuits on the calendar.
Of course, it’s not perfect. The biggest drawback is the lack of g-force one can feel while sat on their sofa. If you turn the volume up to Formula 1 car levels, it can annoy your housemates, your neighbours and the people living in the next street. And if you crash, there’s no risk of going to hospital. But that final point may be seen as an advantage by some.
The hardest thing to achieve with a game such as this is making the handling realistic enough for the biggest fans and easy enough for those who aren’t F1 fans at all, and have simply purchased the game for enjoyment.
As a big F1 fan, I think the cars are still just a bit too easy to drive, but at the same time they are hard to keep on the limit lap after lap. It’s very easy to lock a wheel and run wide, which of course harms your lap time.
The simulation of Kers and DRS is very well done, and is hugely entertaining. Deploying them too early can throw you off the circuit as the car becomes totally unstable. Picking the right moment to deploy Kers when you are fighting wheel to wheel with another car is great fun, and realistic too.
The game does a good job of simulating many other aspects of the sport. If you select a full race weekend, you have to concentrate very much on your programme through the practice sessions.
You have to understand the tyre degradation rates, how the car handles on a full and empty tank, are the gear ratios correct. There are numerous set-up options to work through and consider.
You still have the pressure of getting a good lap in the traffic-filled Qualifying One and Qualifying Two. And, of course, in the final qualifying session you have 10 minutes to get a lap in to secure your place at the front of the grid.
The trick here is to be honest with yourself. You can make the game more realistic if you refuse to use the ‘restart session’ option. If you make a mistake in Q3 and have to crawl back to the pits with a broken nosecone, that’s it. Accept that you’ve failed to get a lap in and start the race from 10th on the grid.
When you get into a Grand Prix, selecting the full length option gives a true test of concentration. Can you really hit every braking point, every apex and every Kers zone accurately and precisely for an hour and a half? Can you also avoid contact with other cars and can you look after your tyres and pick the correct point to make a pit stop?
The best drivers think hard about a race as they are also driving it flat out, and with F1 2011 you have to do the same. I thoroughly recommend it, and it takes the fan much closer to the sport. It makes you feel like a competitor in the greatest sport of them all.