Blanchimont is a small, unassuming and often unsung stretch of tarmac tucked away in Belgium's Ardennes forest. As part of the make-up of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, it's Eau Rouge, the famed uphill kink that dares drivers to take it flat, and Pouhoun, a violently fast double-apex left hander, that take the plaudits. Blanchimont, on the other hand, is a mere footnote, a simple bend on the back straight that barely registers in most other driving games.
But in F1 2011 it's got bite; the kind of bite that'll leave big teeth marks in the rear of the car as it spits you out into the concrete wall that's there to catch anyone dumb enough to underestimate the turn.
Coming so soon off the back of F1 2010, Codemasters' inaugural HD take on the licence it snapped up from Sony in 2008, it's something of a revelation. Last year's game was competent and assured - and it did enough to ensure it was the best take on the sport since Geoff Crammond's heyday - but it was also a little lightweight in its handling.
F1 2010's cars darted around like water boatmen, perfectly conveying the speed of the sport but losing some of the tactility that the best racing games offer. The difference in F1 2011 is profound to the point of being initially off-putting; after a stint that would have done Taki Inoue proud, I was ready to turn my back on the game, convinced that the razor-sharp precision of F1 2010 had been lost. Instead of feeling like water boatmen, this year's models just felt like boats, lurching towards the barriers whenever my attention went astray.
Switching from a pad to a wheel makes the transition from F1 2010 to F1 2011 a little easier. Cars need to be caressed, and they're now more likely to snap into oversteer mid-corner. When they do break away, it's possible to catch them with gentle use of the throttle and some well-applied opposite lock, and it's these hairy moments that provide some of F1 2011's highlights.
This new, more nuanced handling can be partly attributed to a renewed focus on the rubber. Driving's now about finding the limit of the mechanical grip, about keeping the car balanced on the knife edge of adhesion. It's also about taking care of tyres, getting them up to heat and nursing them through stints, and sticking to the racing line. Veer off course and the tyres will pick up marbles, small beads of discarded rubber that are visible on the surface and that eat away at the car's grip levels.
This new emphasis is all perfectly fitting given that Pirelli, returning to the circus this year, has enlivened the racing with tyres that come with built-in obsolescence. The lifespan of a set of boots has been kept artificially short, and that's been replicated here; wear a set a lap too far and you'll lose seconds by the handful as the car refuses to turn in and insists on slipping its tail out every time you stomp on the loud pedal.
Cars are a handful then, in every sense. This year sees the return of KERS - a simple boost button that gives an added 80bhp for around seven seconds a lap - and it's joined by the Drag Reduction System. DRS is a more convoluted system that gives trailing cars a little extra speed in order to pass by opening a flap on the rear wing.
Commentators have suggested that all this means that the real-life F1's becoming more like a game, but in truth no game's ever dared have two systems like this working in tandem. It's mighty confusing at first, and it can require some strange contortions when driving. By default KERS sits on the left bumper, with DRS on the face buttons, and when combined with the demands of a manual gearbox it's all a little awkward.
In the race, DRS is limited to when you're under a second behind a competitor, and even then it can only be activated in special zones. Outside of race conditions, however, it's a free-for-all, and nailing a hot lap either in qualifying or in one of the game's time trials is as much about knowing when it's safe to open up the rear wing.
Get it wrong and it can be disastrous. It's here that Blanchimont - a beast at the best of times in F1 2011 - can become a complete disaster zone. When using DRS, the rear wing automatically snaps shut upon pressing the brakes, but leave it open when entering a high downforce corner such as Blanchimont or Eau Rouge and you'll swap ends at gut-churning speed.
Get it right, though, and it can be worth a good second on a hot lap. Going fast in F1 2011 is about more than perfectly met braking points and bulls-eyed apexes - it's also about micro-managing the car and its systems, a strange and initially disconcerting experience but certainly a novel one.
There's much more that's new in F1 2011, though some of the more enticing aspects - the all-important career mode, for example - remain under wraps while others prove shy to show themselves. The Safety Car, implemented for the first time after extended pleading from the game's fans, was a no-show in the many races I ran through in the pre-release build.
It's pleasing in itself that its presence will be a rare occurrence, although it'll be interesting to see how it plays into the race - car control will remain with the player when it's out, and it'll only ever stay out on the track for two laps at the most, keeping the inevitable boredom of driving half throttle at bay.
Also failing to make an appearance were the all-new mechanical failures, but again that's good news; it'd be worrying if the engines ate themselves on a regular basis, and it seems that Codemasters has displayed some advisable reserve in this regard.
The racing itself is noticeably improved. There are countless serious-minded driving games that get the driving part down pat, though you can count on one finger the number of them that actually pay any attention to the art of racing (and if you're wondering what game that is, in my eye it's the sadly overlooked and quite brilliant Race Pro).
F1 2011 looks set to join that modest club, and it's wheel to wheel action is as assured as any other area in the game. Cars maintain a steady pace and keep a healthy gap when attempting an overtake, and they're pleasingly mindful of your own advances when trying to pass. Whittling down a three-second gap becomes a tangible exercise (helped by visual feedback from a vastly improved UI), and it's truer to the action on a Sunday than any console game's ever been before.
The same can be said of much of F1 2011's improvements, which feed off and feed into the love of the sport held by so many. Whether Codemasters has done enough in 12 short months to justify a repeat purchase remains to be seen, but other things are more certain. F1 2011's one step closer to authenticity, and it's one step closer to joining the racing genre's top tier.