I've been playing the F1 games since last March. In that span, I've racked up close to 900 hours on both 2018 and 2019, winning multiple AOR league racing championships in the process. I consider myself to be an above average driver, not the fastest by any means, but definitely capable of putting down some solid lap times. Over my year of sim racing I've also dabbled in several other sims, mainly iRacing and Assetto Corsa. Having played all 3 games quite intensively, I've noticed what I enjoy about each game and where they excel. After coming back to F1 after playing the other two for several months, it really leaves a lot to be desired. Please don't get me wrong, F1 2019 is a great game, but it isn't without it's faults and there are some things that need to be done way better. There are several main points that I'll be going over, which if improved, will drastically increase the quality of the game. I'll be referencing iRacing and AC quite often throughout as I feel like Codemasters could learn a lot from how these two simulations implement certain aspects.
These two go hand-in-hand as the what the tyres are doing is directly translated through the force feedback. While this is area that has drastically improved over the years, it still has a long way to go. My biggest issue is that you can never properly feel when the car is on the edge of grip. I've lost count of the amount of times I've spun with absolutely no warning that I was about to lose traction. When you're driving the fastest circuit cars in the world, you absolutely need to be able to feel when you're on the edge of grip. The understeer enhanced feature is definitely not the way to go with this. In iRacing, when you're pushing the car hard, you can feel and hear where the edge is, allowing yourself to extract the maximum from the car. You'll notice I said hear and this is a pretty crucial aspect. In both iRacing and Assetto Corsa, your tyres will quite literally be screeching at you as you near the edge of their grip. The feel part is hard to explain, but whatever they're doing differently in their FFB allows you to toe the line better than the F1 games. Anyone who has played either will understand what I'm talking about.
Locking up your tyres in real-life racing is a huge no-no, but in F1 2019, it's not punished at all. This creates unrealistic driving styles that completely ruin the immersion, similar to how people were exploiting high rear ballast systems in F1 2018. I like the direction Codemasters are heading with the FFB, but it is one area that needs to be focused on.
Checkout this short clip of the RSS Formula Hybrid X 2021 mod for Assetto Corsa. This is a community created mod and it captures the sound of an F1 car infinitely better than any of the F1 games. The cars in F1 2019 sound very flat and lifeless. Notice how aggressive the 2021 car sounds on the downshifts, listen to the turbo and ERS noises, IT'S SO GOOD. It amazes me how a mod team can create something better than a full-fledged game studio that specializes in racing games. When comparing the RSS mod to the honda engine in F1 2019 (the engine the RSS mod is based off), it's honestly a bit of a joke. The Renault engine, in my opinion, is the best sounding in 2019, but when you compare it to the one in real life it sounds nothing alike. Increasing the realism and sound quality of the cars will be a huge step in increasing the immersion in F1. At the moment, they're really nothing impressive at all. Continuing on my from previous point above regarding tyres, they need to be more dynamic in terms of sound. As we're driving virtually, we need as much information as possible from our eyes, hands and ears.
This game desperately needs a virtual mirror. Having to use the look back feature to watch for overtaking cars is absurd. Of all the racing simulators I've played, F1 is the only game that doesn't feature a virtual mirror. It's stupid to have use the look back feature as you're approaching a heavy braking zone at 300+ km/h. Having a virtual mirror will allow better battles on track as drivers will have much better awareness of what's going on around them.
2019 took a huge step in the right direction with the introduction of being able to customize your HUD, but they need to take it a few steps further. In iRacing, I use a piece of software called "Joel Real Timing". This application allows me to create an overlay that I can display on my screen while racing. These overlays can include a massive amount of information including a track map (iRacing doesn't have this by default), full leader boards with gaps, deltas, pit stops, fastest laps, average laps, along with custom fuel calculators. Basically, you have enough information to fill your entire screen. F1 2019 pales in comparison. At the very least, give us a leader board that shows all 20 drivers and the intervals between. Having a track map is awesome, but I want to be able to see how many seconds the car I'm chasing down is ahead, at ANY GIVEN TIME, not at the beginning of a sector or the start of a lap. I want to be able to see how many tenths I'm gaining a lap and I want to be able to see how many laps into his stint he is. This is basic information and I'm honestly having a hard time going back to the game after being spoiled with this in iRacing.
The next point is a bit nit-picky but nonetheless, is something I'd like to see. In the t-cam view, you can see exactly how much throttle and brake you're giving. When driving in cockpit, this information is gone. Why? Can this not be part of the custom HUD elements that we can drag wherever we want on screen?
This has been another point of controversy ever since it's been added. The system we have now works, but it is not realistic and requires WAY too much micro-managing. To maximize your lap times, you really need to be adjusting your ERS on the majority of corners, particularly low-speed. Some find this fun and it is rewarding once you get it figured out, but as Lando Norris said in one of his youtube videos, it's simply not realistic. I can totally understand the difficulty in trying to replicate this system, as it's likely that every team has a different mapping for each track, but there has to be a way to make this easier to manage in a race scenario. I think we definitely need to have an overtake/push to pass button for maximum deployment (similar power to setting 4 - overtake in the MFD) and we should be able to cycle between two modes (they could be called deploy and harvest). Then, it would just be matter of selecting harvest through slow sections and before big braking zones and then using deploy through high-speed corners and straights. Obviously the system would need to be a lot more fine-tuned than this, but I think that would be a better direction to go than what we currently have.
While this post may just seem like I'm sh*tting on the F1 games, I assure you, it's coming from a place of love. I see so much potential in these games and I just find they're lacking in very basic elements. I haven't touched on physics as that is something Codemasters has done quite well. They've found a really good balance between simulator and arcade. F1 cars are incredibly hard to drive and the physics are realistic enough that you are punished for your mistakes, but the cars are totally drive-able. If anyone has tried the McLaren in iRacing, you'll understand where I'm coming from. That car is an absolute chore to drive and I don't find it fun at all. Codemasters have found the sweet spot where it comes to realism and driveability, giving you a fairly fun F1 experience. It is by no means perfect, but I think that with a great team of developers these games can be turned into masterpieces. Spend less time on the stupid DLC packs and the gimmicky stuff that nobody cares about and invest more on what matters the most, the driving experience.