While it goes without saying that there have been very few bright spots in the year 2020, the resumption of the F1 season has at least brought some normalcy to the second half of the year and given race fans something more positive to dwell on rather than potential unemployment and safety concerns.
It’s hard to say what motivated Codemasters to allocate sufficient resources to substantially rejuvenate their long running F1 20xx series. But suffice it to say that this year will also go down as the one that the software developer has not only improved the physics model enough to put it on sim racers’ radar display, but also added an exciting new career mode called My Team, which appeals to those players who demand more than an accurate driving simulation to justify their investment. In other words, both fans and critics seem to be paying attention.
My Team (MT) is, well for this flight sim group, the best analogy that I can think of is that it’s most like Air Hauler for F1. That is you are handed a few million Euros and allowed to create a race team, which has been granted an F1 license. You will need to build and paint a car, hire another driver, find sponsors, invest in technical improvements, participate in media events and interviews, and all the while drive the car to a certain performance level to continue to fund and grow the team. There are a number of YouTube channels a player’s MT journey, and this one is probably the most thorough.
But since it’s been a while since I booted an F1 sim, maybe a decade, having burned out on them in the 2000s, I wanted to dip my toe in the water, before taking the full My Team plunge. Likewise, I wanted to use F1 2020 to learn more about the current real life F1 series, including the teams, drivers, rules, and technology. It appears that what was once KERS is now ERS, and what the heck are DRS and DRS zones anyway? To that end, I built a simple series matching the current FIA Formula one schedule as closely as possible. Codemasters has stated that they are going to present the 2020 F1 schedule as it was in early March, and that they are not going to be adding the COVID-19 circuits, including any late additions. Disappointing - yes, but when you see the level of detail that CM has done for each venue, you will better understand the necessity for this position. To be sure, it’s not only the development time and expense to create new tracks, but the approval process along the way, including that from the FIA, track operators, console manufacturers, etc. Like Formula 1 itself, this is a massive franchise and undertaking.
The season that I created, which is done simply enough in the game > Solo > Grand Prix > Create New Grand Prix screen, by adding circuits and choosing event and driving options, includes GPs in Austria, Hungary, Great Britain, Spain, Belgium, Italy, and Russia. I ignored consecutive weekend events of the real series in Austria, Great Britain, and Italy, and left out the late additions of Portimao, Nurburgring and 2-day event in Imola, since those tracks weren’t on the March 2020 schedule and aren’t included in the game. For drivers wanting events at those tracks, or to drive in VR for that matter, I’ll point you to Assetto Corsa and the excellent RSS F1 Hybrid 2020 and Crew Chief mods. That’s right, no VR in F1 2020. Will not debate that decision here, but I will say that the AC VR experience is fantastic.
Since the first GP on my schedule is Austria, I thought it best to complete this introduction of F1 with a series of screenshots from that event. For this series I chose to drive for McLaren as Lando Norris. Over the years, I’ve admired their organization, drivers, and for being seemingly the only team capable of doing battle with Renault, Williams, and Ferrari, during each of those teams’ haydays. And currently, they are probably the most accessible team media wise. Eschewing the traditional stodgy driver behavior of the past, the affable and open Norris/Sainz duo, have made the team difficult not to like.
The cut scenes are excellent and as you find later, often require interaction from the you as the driver. Does that make them hybrids? Opening up for practice is this one of the McLaren’s garage and preparation for Practice Session 1.
During practice I am able to secure P3 on Medium compound tires (M), wanting to save my Soft (S) for qualifying and the race.
But the meteorologists got this all wrong and my One Shot choice of qually setting during the GP configuration ended up costing me 10 spots. A further bad decision to go with Wets (W) instead of Intermediates (I) put me down the order. I should have kept my driver cap on instead of race engineer.
On to the grid walk. I’m afraid that if this is Will Buxton, they’ve unnecessarily aged him at least a decade, the poor devil Stroll or Perez, hard to tell?
The Safety Car lead us on a surprisingly quick reconnaissance lap. Then, the AI took over and guides your car to it’s grid position, something that I’d rather do, but at least I won’t be penalized for lining up in the wrong spot.
And we’re off. Having an axis mapped for clutch helps, although it’s mostly a matter of dropping it with the throttle pinned. Overcast skies would give way to a gradually brighter day, but a few sprinkles would arrive just before the finish.
I think that the sparks flying due to the cars being heavy with fuel is well done.
Turning my P13 qually into my first, but far from last, battle with the Racing Point cars of Perez and Stroll. I would rate the AI quite good at squeezing you off of the ideal line if you are not at least even with them going into a braking zone. The OT (ERS) button works well, but don’t make the mistake of sticking your nose in as the turn approaches unless you are prepared to lose part of it.
Having dispatched the pink twins, it took probably two laps to get past Ricardo. He was combative, but gentlemanly, conceding my McLaren in the braking zone at T1. BTW, does anyone know where the DRS indicator is on the McLaren wheel? Here you can see that I have ERS activated trying to pass Ricardo, but we are also in a DRS zone. I couldn’t tell when it was activated in the cockpit, but did see it pop open in the replay.
After Recardo, I approach the train of Sainz, Albon, and Leclerc. The Frenchman and I would battle for 3 or 4 laps, which was probably the toughest fight of the day.
The Ferrari office, which has an obvious DRS indicator. Notice the track side giant TVs showing your view in real time.
Leclerc not going away.
But Albon was my undoing. I stuck my nose in way late, and he said thank you, I’ll have that end plate and send you for a grass cutting session. When I rejoined it was with the likes of Alpha Romeo and Haas. Apparently, my people.
This dropped me a few places, but it was also time to pit. Of course my crew took forever to change the nose cone, maybe 5 seconds. So, exiting the pits put my back at P19. I managed to claw back to P14 for the finish, sadly dropping one place from qualifying. I have much to learn. Not so Verstappen.
Horner was elated to have taken on and beaten the seemingly invincible Mercedes.
Are you feeling like you are there in parc ferme yet? I know that I did.
A couple of incidents that happened in the last two laps, and I wonder if they were dynamic or scripted. 1) Perez’s engine blew going down the start straight and it was spectacular coming up behind him smoke trailing, and 2) my fuel exhausted couple of hundred yards from the flag allowing Kvyat to get me at the line. I’ll have to pay more attention to fuel load in the future. Now back to being a race engineer I guess. The team had been chirping about a new strategy, but I ignored it almost to my peril.
On to Hungary.