What matters ultimately is how that package performs, of course. Anyone who instinctively switches off the steering and braking assists (but wisely keeps traction control on) is likely to find themselves crashing into barriers with an ease Nelson Piquet Jr would approve of. Driving an F1 car in F1 2009 is twitchy but it is also realistically (and impressively) fast, and the combination of these two elements means you'll need a fair few laps to get to grips with the handling. To help matters, the game comes bundled with an F1-style steering wheel adaptor for the Wiimote to slot in and it unquestionably adds to the experience (and also ensures you emerge from the game with forearms and shoulders to rival those of an F1 driver, probably).
Once conquered, the steering reveals a very accomplished and enjoyable arcade-based driving mechanic. Those looking for an authentic drive will instantly pick up on a certain lack of feedback - namely in that the sense of the tyres being in contact with the tarmac suffers a little from the Wiimote's limited rumble ability, or the disappointingly restricted travel of the buttons assigned to accelerating and braking duties - but there is no criticism to be levelled at the responsiveness of the steering. The longer you spend in the cockpit, the better F1 2009 feels. Sweeping out of Monza's Variante Ascari, thumb flat on the accelerator having kissed all three apexes or sneaking around the outside of an opponent, Alonso-style, at Suzuka's 130R is as thrilling as any racing game has managed.
A shame, then, that the AI isn't more convincing. Your adversaries follow the correct racing line - too rigidly, in fact - but you get no sense of driving style or personality from their on-track behaviour. They do at least tend to respect your position on the track, but fail to capitalise on your errors in the way that their counterparts in GRID or Forza 3 do, for instance, which further contributes to their drone-like character. Even when you set their difficulty to 'Hard' they appear just as likely to run into your gearbox as attempt to overtake you.
Equally limited is the damage model, yet this is a more debatable issue given the arcade one-fits-all nature of the game. While it's disappointing to find that visual damage is restricted to the odd flying wing or broken suspension, in practice component failure (if enabled) seems well balanced - a few altercations with opponents and you soon welcome the fact that the cars in F1 2009 appear made of stronger carbon fibre than their real-life equivalents.
Other criticisms are less damaging. Switch on the penalties, for instance, and you can find yourself punished with the kind of severity Max Mosley would relish, even when your off-track excursion resulted in a time loss. On a technical note, frame-rate drops are occasionally noticeable (but quickly forgotten when hurtling towards the next braking point at triple-figure speed) and next to the hi-res exploits of GT5 et al, F1 2009 looks an entire generation away. That in itself isn't an issue - you can only do so much with the hardware at your disposable - but other areas, such as the AI, where Nintendo's console likely played a limiting factor feel harder to accept.
That will still not be enough to turn most away from F1 2009, and nor should it. Once on-track, few F1 games have managed to be as encouraging when it comes to pushing yourself to attack corners and better your lap time, and fewer still have proved as much fun. This may not be the revolution the Formula 1 sub-genre has been waiting for, but you're not likely to find many Wii owners complaining.
8 / 10