F1 2011

He thought of KERS.

In F1, as in life, it's not about the result but the journey towards it. This is, after all, a sport that's just as in love with legends like Gilles Villeneuve and Stirling Moss - two drivers who would never get their hands on the championship - as it is with Fangio or Schumacher.

It's more important to remember that than ever in a season where the result's often set in stone on Friday practice, with Vettel romping to victory in five of the six opening races. A glance at this year's results doesn't come close to telling the real story, though: this is shaping up to be a year to savour, and the laps that have preceded the inevitable Red Bull win have often boasted more action than entire seasons.

For Codemasters, it got the result it wanted on its debut run. F1 2010 ended an unlikely drought of racing games officially endorsed by the Middle East's second favourite sports governing body, and it did the business for the UK outfit in more ways than one.

It was a triumph in the charts, pounced upon by a rabid F1 fan-base who had had their appetites whetted by a year riddled with rivalries and boasting a four-way showdown at the final race. It later went on to trump FIFA by picking up BAFTA in the sports category at this year's awards.

There's an interesting story behind that success. Codemasters Birmingham was a fledgling studio burdened by the expectations that come with being stablemate to one of the finest racing outfits in the business. At the same time, it was trying to create a racing game that cut against the expectations laid down by years of stale F1 games.

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Bodywork will now flex out on the track, so keep an eye out for the Red Bull's front wing.

F1 2010 covered off the basics well, offering a ride that was faithful to its thrilling source material, and it added to it with its Be the Driver, Live the Life angle. It was an attempt to give the on-track action a little context, and to translate some of the drama, rivalries and stories that bubble through a grand prix weekend and that make the sport so compelling. For all its good intentions, though, it fell a little flat.

"I think we were massively ambitious in what we wanted to do with the first game," admits lead designer Stephen Hood, "and that Be the Driver, Live the Life aspect was a pretty big undertaking for the first instalment. But we needed to do that to prove that we were trying to do something a little different and not just churn out another racing game with F1 cars in it."

F1 2010 was, for all of its accolades, an exploration lap, as the team found its limits and assessed where its strengths lay. "A lot of that initial work is all about the tech," Hood continues. "Last time it was about trying to pull the game together, and F1 2011's been about what we'd really like to do with the game."

It turns out that much of what Codemasters Birmingham wants to do is to refine its original ideas, which is no bad thing when those ideas were so sound in the first place. Be the Driver, Live the Life is still the mantra, and it's one that's being reinforced through some added polish.

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DRS and KERS will both play a part - though where they'll sit on the pad remains a mystery.

The sense of drama that surrounds an F1 race is being paid close attention to, with more in the way of animations before and after a race; there'll now be small establishing scenes before a session as the driver scrambles into the cockpit, and success in a race will be met with the kind of giddy scenes that typically greet the climax of a tough Sunday afternoon's work.

Away from the track, there's the return of the virtual paddock from F1 2010 and DiRT 2, though this time - in a sign of the series' upward mobility - your driver will have his own room tucked away in the team's motorhome. There'll be added context provided by a feed of emails and news reports where the consequences of your words in a press interview will play out - and it seems as if the studio has found a way to integrate the fractured on- and off-track elements of F1 2010.

F1 2011's full tagline now reads Be the Driver, Live the Life, Go Compete - and that appendage covers much of F1 2011's new ground. Multiplayer racing is now a much more serious concern, and for the first time (and thanks in no small part to the work of the DiRT 3 team) split-screen is an option, as is co-operative team play.

Online racing will also be served by a more robust hub, acknowledging the dedicated following that F1 2010's multiplayer maintains to this day. It's here that one of F1 2011's additions will be felt the strongest, and where it will certainly prove controversial.

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