The Formula 1 season is racing towards us, which means our eyes are firmly on F1 2022.
One thing Codemasters has bought in recently is driver ratings. These have likely always been behind the surface of the game, dictating how the AI races. But in F1 2020 they were made visual for the first time. Now for F1 2022 it is time to take them up another notch.
It is hard to separate driver talent and skill from the performance of the car they are driving. It's always been that way in Formula 1 and always will be. There are also fewer things to rate a driver on compared to the likes of FIFA or Madden.
However, the current F1 driver ratings within the game are very simple. They get a score that is made up of just four components: Experience, Pace, Racecraft, and Awareness.
Experience just comes down to how many races they have been in. It's why veterans like Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton start with 99 Experience while rookies like Yuki Tsunoda start in the 40s. Pace and Racecraft sort of overlap, as one is raw speed in clear air and the other is the ability to battle. Awareness just means they aren't torpedoing into people or picking up penalties.
Codemasters uses real-life performance to adjust the driver ratings a few times within the season. That's excellent, but it's time to go further.
Expanding the rating
After two years of this style, it's time to expand the system and create something that is a bit more dynamic.
Separating things like race pace from qualifying pace would let drivers like Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez play more realistically.
Adding a consistency rating or a wet driving would give drivers a chance to show more personality in races.
Here's a FIFA Ultimate Team-style card we came up with.
In this system the Overall rating is made up of 6 mainline stats: Pace, Qualifying, Wet driving, Wheel-to-Wheel, Consistency, and Strategy.
Within these, there could even be sub-categories that the player doesn't see, like overtaking and defending creating the Wheel-to-Wheel stat. A tyre preservation and mechanical input stat could be part of the strategy stat.
There are so many more ways for drivers with the same Overall rating to drive within a system that is broader like this one.
Lance Stroll's Saturday struggles and Bottas' trouble moving through the field could be better represented within the game by creating a system that specifically highlights these areas.
The stats would also be, theoretically at least, more disconnected from car performance than they currently are.
What's holding this back?
There are plenty of reasons why Codemasters may be unable to implement such a ratings system for drivers in F1 2022.
The first one is that Formula 1 themselves have a lot of say over what is and isn't in the games. Stating plainly that one driver is a degree worse than his oposition on a Saturday or at overtaking may not go down well. Espcially if the Grand Prix Drivers Association has to be consulted on the stats.
There's also time constraints. While Codemasters uses a two-year cycle to create their Formula 1 games now, F1 2022 is the biggest challenge they have faced since getting the F1 license over 10 years ago.
The technical and visual changes that need to be made to the cars this year are enormous. The 2022 regulations create a ground effect for the cars. The simplified wings will narrow the rearward air flow and could decrease the impact of DRS.
Then there are the 18-inch Pirelli tyres for this year, which means Codemasters will need to alter and stress-test their tyre model.
Then there is the fact taht all of their work is just theoretical. Until they get data from the teams around testing sessions and early races they can't be absolutely sure that the F1 teams will create the results on the track that the FIA expect to see.
It's a monumental task. Far bigger than the changes for F1 2017. While Codemasters absolutely nailed that transition, it remains to be seen how they will cope with the challenge ahead of them. We can't wait to find out, we just hope there is space to re-examine how driver ratings are created and presented within the F1 game.