Motorsport games can often be an intimidating test for new players. True racing games bite and punish mistakes, and the only experience most have is with Mario Kart.
While the majority of people know how to drive, driving quickly in a race is another matter, and going from a road car to a single-seater thoroughbred like a Formula 1 care can be an impossible challenge for many. While track day experiences are a popular gift, the high-octane performance is not for everyone.
The controls alone can be enough to deter you, and the difficult nature of taming an F1 car can lead to gamers quickly giving up. However, as the pinnacle of motorsport around the world and thanks to the efforts of Codemasters, Formula 1 games are some of the most satisfying sports games on the planet and are incredibly rewarding to play. So how can you go from F1 newbie to calm and in control?
Use the assists
All motorsport games have some level of assists to help the cars be easier to control and drive. F1 games usually have the best and most comprehensive set of assists around.
The preset of beginner assists gives you a lot of help, from braking to traction control, racing line, and gearbox. The only thing it won't do for you is turn.
The braking assist will prevent you going too deep into corners or flying into barriers around the street circuits, while the traction control will help you under acceleration and prevent the car from seriously snapping on you as you exit the corner as you slam the power down.
The crown jewel of F1 assists has long been the 3D racing line, which leaps upward in the braking zones to help you see it when following a car. Even highly experienced players continue to use this assist as it can be very tricky to spot and learn.
The automatic gearbox assist is another vital one, especially when using a control pad. The pit assists mean you don't have to worry about the pit lane speed limit or exiting the pit box, while automatic ERS mode takes care of the energy deployment until you are ready to take on that function yourself.
Once you have a feel for the way the car drives you can start to remove assists. They great thing about F1 2019 is that the brake and traction control have gradients to them, allowing you to go from high to medium, low, and off with the brakes and full, medium, and off with the traction control.
Naturally the more assists you have the slower you will be, but the breadth of options you have with them means there isn't an enormous leap you have to make each time you peel one assist off. Start by lowing the brake assist and then only use the racing line at corners.
Once you are fully braking yourself and have got comfortable with race starts you can remove the pit assists and ERS assist too. One of the trickiest things for pad users is coping without traction control and using manual gears, so if you find yourself still making use of those assists then don't worry.
As all F1 fans know, looking after your tyres is often the key to victory in modern F1, and the game is no different. While you will receive race strategies on the grid that will tell you when you should stop, getting there is up to you. The best way to do so, without compromising on setup, is to be extremely smooth.
That means no aggressive acceleration or being late on the brakes. When the ABS brake assist is off you don't have to worry about locking up, which will seriously hurt your tyres. If you brake a little early and roll the car into the apex of the corner then accelerate smoothly when straight your tyre life will be greatly extended. As the old saying goes "slow in, fast out".
Finding the balance between tyre-life and outright pace is the key to winning consistently in F1 2019, but once you have refined your driving style the majority of your pace will come from using setups that are tuned to the track and the way you drive.
Making sense of the F1 setup menu can feel like you need a degree in motorsport engineering, so let's take a moment to go through them. The Aerodynamics tab describes the level of downforce, and thus grip, you have. A basic rule of thumb is that the more corners there are and fewer straights the more wing angle you want to add. The Transmission tab refers to how the power is transferred through the rear wheels and into the tarmac. Suspension Geometry is about how the wheels are mounted to the rest of the car, and suspension the stiffness of the car.
While the game doesn't provide as much help with setups as MotoGP 19 does, it has 5 preset setups you can use, ranging from max downforce ones to max top speed. These are good places to start building your own personalised setups once you are driving consistently enough to feel the way changes affect the handling. It can take time to truly build your own setups, but we have some very strong setups you can use, such as this Austrian Grand Prix one.
The art of overtaking and fighting wheel-to-wheel is very hard to learn, especially when you jump online and have to deal with the more erratic players.
The key is picking your spots and using your tools. Even if your opponent is very slow not every corner has space on entry for two cars, nevermind at apex or exit. However, there are more overtaking chances in the game than in real life so finding a balance between sensible and successful is all-important.
The combination of DRS, Rich fuel mix, and Overtake ERS mode is extremely potent, and in places like Azerbaijan, China, and Italy you can breeze by an opponent before the braking zone, but elsewhere you need to get a bit cute. The inside line is always preferable when making a move, but the key is to not outbrake yourself and end up failing to make the corner at all.
If you are over-ambitious in career mode you can always use a flashback to undo the error, but there are no second chances online so it is often the wiser course to forgo the half-chance and wait for a clearer one. Still, there is no rush quite like a well-timed and perfectly executed overtaking move.
Once you have mastered the overtake you are truly ready to increase the AI difficulty, hit the ranked lobbies, and really compete.