Since 2009, Codemasters has worked tirelessly to satisfy our far-fetched goals of becoming a Formula One World Champion (some of us make that even more difficult by wanting to achieve that title in a McLaren, but I diverge). What they have created is an accurate representation of the sport, season on season, which is engaging enough to hold our attention for an innumerable number of laps.
From its menu, we can race through an entire season from start to finish, or go for glory on the time trials leaderboard, without complaint. But if I could have free rein on its development, is there anything I’d do differently? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Here are my fourteen ideas on features that could be included in future F1 games, albeit in my dreams.
Practice Certain Corners / Sectors in Isolation
At times, a difficult track is nothing more than an okay circuit with a few tricky, and thus costly, sections. These challenging twists, turns and eccentricities can easily eat away at time advantages gained elsewhere on the lap and be the difference between starting near the front and languishing at the back. But whether we take on the track in question through the time trial mode or free practice, we’re only able to tackle the problem once per lap.
Although completing the runs in their entirety only adds to our proficiency, time is often against us and having to devote a minute twenty plus over and over again when we’re only interested in a few seconds worth can seem a little silly. Especially when we bungle our entry and screw up before we even reach the problem. So I would like to see a setting that allows you to isolate a part of the track and respawn at its beginning after reaching its end. You could then repeat the area to your hearts content. Or at least until you can drive it in your sleep.
*Yes, you could reverse or drive backwards to start the section again but that’s still an ineffective use of our spare time.
**Sleep driving is very dangerous. Do not do it. Simples.
For actual Formula 1 drivers, the track walk is an important part of the weekend. A lap or two around the circuit by foot is an invaluable source of information that would prove nigh on impossible to gather through any other means. Though the layout remains unaltered and can be memorised through illustrated print outs and virtual simulations, more miniscule traits and seasonal factors are almost invisible to any method of data gathering that does not involve a pair of eyes peering down on it.
From this biomechanical trip, a driver is able to deduce whether the track is lacking grip in certain areas (recent resurfacing or lack of running), marred by any imperfections (us Brits can handle a pot-hole), or sporting any new kerbs ready to trip up a greedy chassis.
The game includes various sweeping shots but an avatar with boots on the ground and a dynamic camera could give us a closer look. Who knows, we might even find a few extra tenths.
Playground to Test Car Set-ups
The Formula 1 video game is drivable straight out of the garage. But in order to be competitive, especially without the assists, a fair amount of tweaking is needed to the cars. This is identical to the process that the real teams go through each and every race weekend, though we at home aren’t gifted with the same degree-qualified boffins or tomes of relevant information. Therefore the perfect set-up, if there is such a thing, is the result of much trial and error.
In order to preserve as much as the weekend’s free practice time, many may choose to run these “test laps” in time trial, saving their preferred set ups, and loading them into the career mode events. But that ends up looking like this – make changes, leave garage, flying lap, return to garage, make new changes, leave garage, flying lap, return to garage… You get the picture.
Instead of going back and forth like a ping pong ball, wouldn’t it be better if we could change settings on the fly, whilst remaining out on track. Yes, we’d have to forego the time for that lap, but we’d get an instant feel for how our meddling has affected the car’s handling and put it right. Because, let’s be honest, it’s never perfect the first time out.
*Technically, it can be right first time out if we use set-ups that others have published online. But where’s the fun in that?
Return of the Young Drivers Test
For me, the Young Drivers Test added an extra sense of realism to proceedings. It allowed those with the skill to secure a contract with a team further towards the front of the grid whilst we “beginners” were invited to learn our craft in the more nurturing midfield. But it also provided an opportunity to learn the small skills that combine to produce a race winning performance.
Whether it was hitting the apex, braking initially with full force then easing off, or simply being on the right side of the track at the right time, they went a long way in helping us shave off those vital, yet elusive, seconds.
At the moment, you’re instantly thrown into the deep end without the need to prove you’ve got what it takes. Or at least have the funding to make up for it. But in real life a seat in Formula One is the result of many years of hard graft, usually through the go karting ranks and junior formulas.
Wouldn’t it be great, then, if the F1 game could be extended to include the foundation years before the “good life” begins? It would really be a zero to hero story.
Ask any fan for their favourite moment and you’re likely to get many different answers. Almost seventy years of racing has produced a lot of memorable moments, and although the cars are slowly being consumed by aerodynamics and electronics, we are still witness to great manoeuvres. They’re practically un-replicable; the odds were against them out on track so we have no hope on screen. However, a bit of coding behind the scenes could drop us right in thick of things.
A similar feature has appeared in the past – win the race with x laps to go from z place. But what I’m thinking is real life scenarios from seasons past and present.
Your challenge, if you choose to accept it (and if Codies choose to… code it) is to brake late like Ricciardo, overtake in a non-overtaking spot like Verstappen and clinch the title by a point like Hamilton.
Each year, Codesmasters ensure that the game comprises of that season’s track list in the correct order. It’s a vital part of what makes the whole thing realistic. But there are times when I want to play through the entire roster, just not in sequence. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a track two races away, whether it’s because it’s a favourite of mine or I’m looking for something a little less technical, and I haven’t really got the drive to race through those just to get to that one. Therefore it would be a nice feature if we could rearrange the calendar, or select fewer races, in a custom championship.
Now, there may be purists out there who question the logic. After all, it’s based on that year’s calendar so it makes sense to do them in order. But unlike the actual real-life teams, we’re not governed by trains, planes and automobiles so why can’t Australia follow Monaco?
1 vs 1 – Teammate v Teammate
Whereas other team-based sports may have a substitute bench, occupied by new blood, hungry for an opportunity and poised to grab it with both hands, a Formula One season is usually contested by ten two-man teams who remain unchanged until a new season starts afresh. However, contracts and forthcoming empty seats are hotly debated by TV personalities throughout the year, largely fuelled by performance comparisons made between teammates.
The game itself highlights its very importance by chronicling your success, or lack of it, in your battle against the other half of the garage. But what if there was a mode that allowed you to race as a pair, multiplayer or AI, and see who comes out triumphant once and for all, without the rest of the field getting in the way.
*Drivers may be replaced or revolved should their on-track performance / off-track antics demand such a drastic change. It has happened, though it’s far from common.
**Man is used here in the context that at the time of writing there are no lady drivers currently occupying raceday seats. There has, and continues to be, a number of women who undertake test-driving for the teams, namely Susie Wolff and Tatiana Calderon.
Team Manager Mode
Formula 1 is similar to other sports whereby the managers, or team principals as they’re called in the paddock, are household names just like the drivers in their charge. Wouldn’t it be an interesting twist, and a fresh take on the series, if we were able to step into their shoes in a Team Manager mode. Something not too dissimilar to the football equivalent.
In the role, we would be entrusted with how much we spend and on what, which sponsors deserve a spot on our monkey seats, and who exactly gets a drive. Not to mention talent acquisition (read nabbing from rival teams) and press conferences.
Just call us Toto Horner…
Race Engineer Multiplayer
There’s nothing quite like multiplayer when you’re with friends. People who you trust not to shunt you off the track in the first corner. But what if you could team up in some sort of tag team and support one another just like the real thing?
There are few relationships as important as that between driver and race engineer. The dynamic duo rely on one another to turn strategy into success, and a misstep by either is enough to cause the wheels to fall off their plan. It is obvious, therefore, that you’d be as picky about your engineer as you would be about who your dog marries.
So what about your best friend?
One of you could take the driving seat whilst the other keeps an eye on stats and relays all the important information into your ear for you to turn into track position. On paper, it sounds a little weak but there’s potential, at least.
Box, box , box!
Codemasters are also the developers behind the Dirt series. And in recent incarnations, that franchise has enjoyed an in-built course generator that has the capability to create a selection of procedurally generated stages. At times it’s hit and miss, but it does at least extend the official routes and once in a while it can produce something that actually rivals the real thing.
When compared to one another, rally is a little different to Formula One – not that you’d think it considering how good these Finn drivers are. Where as a rally stage doesn’t have to return back on itself, a F1 circuit has a joint start and finish. This would make the inclusion of a track builder a trickier proposition as one part couldn’t simply be laid in front of another. They would probably need resizing, and that just adds extra faff.
But if there was a way to try one corner with a straight from somewhere else, coupled with another chicane, it would add a kind of longevity to each release. And a bit of unpredictability.
The ‘E’ in Formula E could stand for electric or evolved. Because that’s what it is, an evolution of the racing of old by replacing emission spewing petrol and diesel engines with a cleaner power source. Whether we love it or hate it, the new formula has at least introduced an interesting twist to proceedings – itself an evolution of qualifying.
The so called Super Pole, which pits a number of drivers against each other in a winner takes pole lap, provides the ultimate opportunity for drivers to show their true prowess once and for all. With no traffic to blame, it’s just them and the track.
*Superpole is also used in the World Super Bikes Championship with a similar exciting effect.
Bernie’s Infamous Sprinkler System
Bernie Ecclestone is a man who is as famous for what he didn’t do as he is for what he did. Specifically, his ingenious sprinkler system. It was an idea coined to combat the lack of wet weather races we’re gifted, and as a way to enliven the almost precession-like events that have become so common. Despite the notion lacking in most areas of common sense, not to mention giving the health and safety brigade a fright, it would introduce an interesting mechanic to what is, at times, a rudimentary procession.
Track Reversal or Mirroring
There’s nothing like braking into Monza’s tight first corner and actually making the apex. But have you ever wondered what it would be like from the other direction? How about the esses in America, or Monaco’s hairpin?
In real life, there’s absolutely zero chance of a Grand Prix running the wrong way. But there’s nothing stopping us doing just that on screen. Well, except for the fact that it’s currently not an option.
The psychology and logistics of track design is one that I’m particularly fascinated by, and if nothing else, this feature would at least prove that it’s a lot more complicated than scribbling down a few squiggly lines.
They could also go all Mario Kart on us and mirror the tracks (be honest, you thought I was going to mention banana skins then!)
Living life one Batmobile chase at a time. When she’s not writing about video games, she’s writing terrible jokes that even a Christmas cracker would be embarrassed to share.