F1 2021 Round 1: Bahrain

It’s been a long time since I’ve indulged in an F1 game. Years ago I kept a log of my progress on F1 2009 on the Nintendo Wii. Now it’s time to do battle on the PS5 edition of F1 2021. This game is considerably more advanced than what I’m used to, and it’s been years since I’ve played any form of racing game in earnest. With that in mind, how would I cope?

I did some experiments before launching into career mode properly. I tried racing without many of the assists that are designed to help inexperienced players, and for the most part could barely complete a lap. I felt a bit frustrated but in hindsight that was silly – I could hardly expect to become proficient at a game that incorporates more realism than any I’d previously played. With that in mind, I tweaked the settings, and decided to do what I could to enjoy the game (because that’s the point after all). I created my team – Meerkat Racing (what else?) and prepared for round one of the 2021 season, at the Bahrain International Circuit. 57 laps of the race awaited, but first came practice sessions and qualifying.

Some corners, even with brake assist on (I disabled steering assist after a disastrous issue with pit stops) were, to begin with, horrendous. Turn 10 is a big sharp left-hander that took me forever to get to grips with. I can’t say I was overly fond of turn 1 or turn 8 either. I found myself applying some hard braking (even with the assist on) to make certain I could make those corners properly, and without losing too much time.

I need to adjust some settings ahead of the next race. In practice I managed to be quickest of anyone, which is completely unrealistic for a new team. I also qualified on pole, and in the race itself I kept pace with (and would eventually pass) Lewis Hamilton, despite a failure of my DRS system, and despite being on medium tyres (compared to his mediums). I’d lead until my first stop, coming out narrowly behind Hamilton but on fresh softs, and made short work of him. From there I built up a huge lead, and by the time of my second stop I was some 35 seconds clear at the front. To ensure some semblance of realism I’ll raise the quality of the AI, for this lead was implausible, to say the least! However my race would not turn out in the way I’d hoped.

Backmarkers and my race engineer between them ruined my race (well, that and being massively ambitious). I don’t know which of the Aston Martins didn’t leave enough room as I tried to lap them at turn 14, but I damaged my front wing and immediately dove into the pits to fix it. I had the gap, and so why not use it? However my team inexplicably (this is where I need to learn some of the features) put old mediums on my car, and from there I faced a challenge – did I stick it out on these tyres (pitting again would drop me to third or fourth), or did I try and get to the end? I decided to go for it – and oh-so-nearly made it, but a few laps from the end and halfway round the track my front-left tyre failed. I had to limp back to the pits and by the time I’d made it back out I was down in 12th. This became 11th when Tsunoda retired, but I couldn’t quite catch Alonso to snatch a point. In consolation I claimed the fastest lap, but it was a meagre return from a race that promised so much more.

So, I need to up the quality of the AI, give backmarkers a wider berth, and check to see what my team are planning tyre-wise. We’ll see what happens at Imola, next time around.

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