F1 2018 has been out for a few weeks now, and the reviews are nearly universally positive. Codemasters has produced a stellar game with a more involved and detailed career than ever. However, deciding which team you should start your career mode with is a very important, and very difficult, choice to make. So who should you go for?
Ferrari and Mercedes are the best two teams in the game, with Red Bull not too far behind. This has been evident for several seasons now, and if you want to compete for a championship straight away, then you should sign with one of these three teams.
Mercedes, along with its customer teams Force India and Williams, has an edge in outright power, while Ferrari boast the best aerodynamics package on the grid and Red Bull have a superior chassis to the rest of the paddock.
This creates a very delicate balance of power for the season, and wherever you sign there are different paths to take with your R&D. You can close the power gap in Red Bull so that you can compete, or build your chassis at Mercedes so you can challenge at Monaco and stave off the others.
No team is a guarantee to give you a title this year, with a lot of fluctuation occurring through the season. Red Bull starts very much as the third team, but by mid-season you can have them at the front with the right development.
Behind the front three teams is a constantly changing pack of four. Renault, Haas, Force India, and McLaren all have their pros and cons and all have the possibility of scoring points every weekend.
Force India have the boost of a Mercedes engine that will power them away at tracks like Bahrain and Azerbaijan, while Renault have the edge on aero and McLaren's chassis is their strength. They all have weaknesses too, with Force India owning the least developed aero and chassis of this group, while the Renault power for McLaren and Renault is way off the Ferrari power of Haas, who sit happily in the middle of it all.
Each team provides different challenges for drivers, and will require some serious dedication to build up into a title contender. You'll be lucky to sniff a podium finish with any of these teams in the first year or two, but if you stick at it you can bring these teams the glory they long for.
Toro Rosso, Sauber, and Williams make up the back of the grid at most race weekends in F1 2018. While Williams have a Mercedes power unit to drive them forward, they also have the worst chassis of any team. Sauber have had a remarkable 2018 season in F1 with several points finishes thanks to sensational rookie Charles Leclerc, but in F1 2018 they are still very much at the back. Their Ferrari power unit is good, but they have the worst aero package of any team. Meanwhile Toro Rosso do pretty well in the aero and chassis department, beating even Force India there, but the Honda power unit leaves them dead last down the straights.
All three teams are a huge challenge. British players will feel a huge draw to Williams due to their heritage, while newer players may want to take the reins and partner Leclerc or Pierre Gasly and take those teams to the top of the grid for the first time. However, it is a long, long road to making them competitive.
Seasoned players should take the biggest challenge and take a seat at Williams, Sauber, or Toro Rosso. Without much to differentiate season from season, F1 2018 can become a procession if you start with a top team and develop them away from the rest of the field. However, if you start with a backmarker it can be years of hard work and grinding before you step onto a podium, making the achievement that much bigger.
If you are new to F1 games then jumping into a Ferrari or Red Bull will give you the best immediate experience and make the game much easier to learn. You are able to create performance gaps by continually increasing the AI difficulty and removing driver aids so that the challenge goes on for season after season.
Remember, with the new contract negotiations you have the opportunity to jump teams at several points during the season too, so you aren't making a decision straight away and having to stick with it. You can be a team player like Lewis Hamilton and keep signing with the top team, or you can follow Daniel Ricciardo's recent path and take on a new challenge at a lesser team.
All of this goes out of the window if you have a particular affinity for one team over all the others though. In the end, F1 2018 is a racing game that puts you at the heart of the action and which ever team you choose to start your career with it will be a unique and tricky experience.