F1 2011 gets safety car

Update: It's optional and available online.

Update: In a comment on this article by community manager Ian Webster, Codemasters has confirmed that the safety car will be available in races of 20 per cent real distance or over, including online races, but can be turned off if you don't want it. You'll maintain car control (and the same game camera) behind the safety car, but with certain restrictions. And it won't be available for players to drive.

Original story: Codemasters has confirmed that this year's official Formula One game, F1 2011, will introduce the sport's safety car.

Lead designer Steve Hood and communications manager Andy Gray both tweeted the news this morning ahead of the game's showing at gamescom in Cologne.

"Hang on, what's this? That's right, the SAFETY CAR IS IN!!!" said Gray, posting a blurry off-screen snap of the FIA's Mercedes SLS in action, leading the F1 field. (New, better image below!)

"Okay, okay… Safety Car is in this years' game… Going to be awesome!!" confirmed the only slightly less excitable Hood.

In Formula One, the safety car leads the pack around at the circuit at a reduced pace in dangerous conditions such as extreme wet or after a crash. Racers have to hold station behind it and aren't allowed to pass each other.

Its appearance can have a profound impact on race strategy and outcome, and it's been a much-requested feature by fans.

F1-mad Martin is seeing both F1 2011 and the recently revealed browser game F1 Online this week, so look out for updates.

F1 2011 will be released on 23 September.

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The safety car is out. Or rather, in.

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