When you think of the fastest players on F1 2021 you probably picture Jarno Opmeer or Marcel Kiefer in their home rig that costs thousands of pounds. But buying a direct drive wheel and Sim Labs rig isn't the only way to be fast.
Some players are finding ways of competing with the esports drivers on a controller. One of those is Louis Welch, a three-time PSGL PlayStation F1 champion who has been racing alongside the biggest names in F1 esports across the league racing scene.
We sat down to talk to Louis about the pad vs wheel debate and get some tips on how you can be faster even on a controller.
Pad vs wheel in F1 2021
For years now the debate around wheel vs pad has been raging in the F1 community. Claims of OP traction for one or extra turning for another have gone back and forth.
In F1 2020 there is no doubt that pad players were able to get the power down more efficiently than wheel players, but they suffered on tracks like Monaco where the pad simply didn't provide the steering performance of a wheel.
"On 2020 the pad had more of a chance because of the traction we were able to get," Says Louis, "but in F1 2021 it appears to be that traction is much easier for wheel users. Which of course hasn't helped us as that was one of the few advantages we had each year."
Codemasters' new game has bought the virtual cars closer than ever before to the physical F1 series. With less downforce to match the new regulations and more understeer in the car it has become trickier to keep up at the elite level for pad players according to Louis. The F1 2021 cars are at their best in the game when just barely sliding, something incredibly hard to achieve consistently anyway, but even more difficult with a controller.
"Pad is slowly starting to get worse and worse every game. The fast direction changes that are needed are insane but it is really difficult to do consistently with a controller compared to what I've seen wheel users achieve."
"Overall, I would say the gap from pad to wheel has increased since last year definitely."
F1 2021 tips for controller players
Louis is proof that you don't need to drop huge thousands on a home rig to be fast in the F1 games. So what advice does he have for pad players?
"I don't see the point in being thrown in at the deep end." Says Louis. "You'll just end up getting frustrated. Start by taking one assist off at a time. Work on turning the TC off, get used to that then turn ABS off. Of course everyone is different but that's the way I learned."
It's reassuring to hear that you don't just have to rip off all the assists at once to be fast. Building up to removing one is the best way to keep F1 fun as well as competitive.
"To become better on pad you need to use smooth inputs. There's no point in flicking the stick at every little moment, inputs should be as smooth on pad as they are on a wheel." Says Louis.
His final tip is, of course, to put in lots of practice.
"I know practice gets used a lot especially when people ask the esports drivers for help, but honestly it's a key aspect of becoming faster and more consistent on the game. Says Louis.
"You aren't just going to become better overnight. You need to be able to put the time and effort in order to become faster. But of course know your limits and don't sweat the game too much otherwise you'll just end up burning yourself out and getting annoyed by it."
Burn out and over-practicing is an issue even for the best players. Don't feel like you have to put in 100 laps a day just to find that extra tenth of a second on a track.
Just like Lucas Blakeley told us, Louis sees a lot of work ahead on finding ideal setups for pad players.
"At this current time I don't really understand setups much myself. I suppose what I've learned so far is that the more beginner pad players need to work on making the car more stable and balanced as you don't want to be spinning everywhere. For the more advanced pad players maybe try and more oversteery setup to try and make the sliding more achievable and a little easier to do!"