Our review of F1 2018 resulted in a 9/10 last year and just a mere 10 months later - two months earlier than any other incarnation - F1 2019 is revved up and ready to go. We would have been hard pushed to find anything missing from last year's game, but in the offseason, Codemasters has managed to, with what is probably one of the hardest development cycles in annual video games, pieced together yet another podium finish with this year's iteration. There are the obvious upgrades expected in visual graphics and handling but the inclusion of the F2 Championship (a lower formula of motorsports that acts as a feeder for F1) is the standout addition that adds a new level of immersion to a stunning game.
In the new Career mode, before you take to the grid in an F1 team, you must complete a series of F2 2018 season highlights. This mini-story introduces you to a couple of fictional drivers amongst the official grid lineup, who couldn't be more clichéd. These are Lukas Weber, your teammate and possibly the nicest, kindest driver in all of motorsport, and Devon Butler, your rival, a hot-headed, arrogant and ultimately selfish hotshot. The trio of drivers, yourself included, graduates to F1 with varying degrees of success and the relationships carry over too, affecting the contracts offered by the different teams.
It does seem with the latest rookies entering F1 in the form of Alex Albon, George Russel and Lando Norris (all directly from F2), that a trick was possibly missed, but maybe they wouldn't have offered the same level of rivalry or storytelling that the fictional paddock creates. Speaking of which, last year's addition of interviews is still a big part of career mode and now has even more influence over your season, and you'll also get rival-specific questions that can really heat things up the paddock.
For the uninitiated, Formula 2 (a 2017 rebrand of GP2) is a second-tier single-seater championship. Engine, chassis and tyres are standardised across the field to make the competition more about driving rather than team development and money. The race weekend is different too, consisting of a qualifying session followed by two races, a feature race and a much shorter sprint race with a reversed grid. This adds up to some rather exciting racing and quite intense battles for position. The F2 2019 season is to be added as free DLC later in the year with the current driver lineup including Mick Schumacher (son of F1 racing legend Michael Schumacher).
Along with the new F2 season there are also all the new rules and regulations that have taken effect in this year's F1 season, an extra point can now be earned by completing the fastest lap during the race, so finding yourself with a large enough gap between you and the car behind, it may well be worth pitting for some fresh rubber and to set yourself up for a blistering lap. As for tyre regulations, this season Pirelli has ditched the rainbow compounds for a simplified yet still complicated three tyre system; each race has just three compounds (soft, medium and hard) but depending on the on track and temperatures, a hard at one circuit may be a medium at another.
There are also some mid-season changes to contracts which can really change up your calendar. Perform well enough and you might just get an offer to switch teams and increase your chances of becoming the world's No.1.
In terms of gameplay, this year's entry builds on some already rock-solid foundations. You can tweak the experience to suit your skill level, so if you want a deep simulation and to race in all the qualifiers you can have that, much like you can have a very casual experience if all you want to do is tackle the main event and keep all the assists on. Overall the whole thing is very customisable, and that level of customisation is underpinned by tight, responsive controls and realistic physics.