With one of the biggest changes to Formula 1 racing in over a decade taking place this season, it’s unsurprising that its recreation in Codemaster’s F1 22 refocuses on the fundamentals. It’s easy to look at this year’s entry in the F1 series and see only incremental improvements, with a clear focus on how the rapid cars handle around tight corners and translating the authenticity of the new regulations to players in a tangible way. The focus on small but important adjustments means that, as a whole package, F1 22 feels slightly trimmer than last year’s version, but it’s still a worthwhile successor because of how well it makes each corner feel in this new era of F1 racing.
If you’re unfamiliar with just how broad the changes in real-life Formula 1 racing this season have been, there are just a few points that cover the broad picture. The cars are heavier this year, with the minimum allowable weight being raised to accommodate a slew of aerodynamic changes and rules, many of which put emphasis on empowering closer racing that is affected less by a loss in downforce (that is, the amount of grip you have on a track) experienced when following other cars. Many of these changes are represented on the underside of each car, with a ground effect now sucking cars closer to the track when they’re hitting extremely high speeds. This makes fast, swooping turns feel easier to nimbly navigate but also means that more acutely angled corners taken at slower speeds are monumentally more challenging.
In the same way that the changes have made this Formula 1 season enticing to watch as drivers figure out the new limits of these cars around familiar circuits, F1 22 is a reset on your own understanding of racing in the game. Tracks with tight chicanes, such as the street circuit in Baku or the classic in Monte Carlo, are even more treacherous to navigate, with each slow corner feeling like it’s demanding far too much steering from the new chassis. Conversely, tracks with long, fast turns, such as the sweeping Maggotts and Becketts corners at Silverstone or the long straights of Monza, feel much easier to manage. The changes are so stark that I often found myself adjusting the difficulty of the opponent AI in-between each of these events to compensate for my wildly varied performances, where I could be whole seconds ahead on one track and then struggle to get out of the first session of qualifying on another.