It's time to expand the F1 universe

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F1 2021 has been with us for a month now, and while there are still a few bugs and issues it's been quite the success for Codemasters, with more players than ever before jumping into the virtual F1 world.

With a 10-year Career Mode or My Team, there is plenty of time for the grid to change, not just in car performance but also driver performance and personnel.

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Since the introduction of driver transfers in F1 2019 and the Driver Market in F1 2020, your Career Mode will actually change, and sometimes at quite a pace, as you go on. However, as things stand it's still not enough.

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It's time for Codemasters to further expand the F1 universe.

Grid turnover

Formula 1 careers are short unless you are wildly successful. While it feels like Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, and Kimi Raikkonen will keep driving forever, they are the outliers when it comes to F1 longevity.

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For reference, let's go back in time 10 seasons to the 2012 Formula 1 season. One of the most balanced and entertaining championships ever, it saw eight different drivers win a race and 13 different podium finishers.

Of that grid though, only six are still racing. Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez, and Daniel Ricciardo are the only holdovers. Four of them are World Champions, while Perez & Ricciardo were just in their second season.

F1 2012
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That's a huge amount of turnover, and actually less than usual! While some like Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg could still be racing in F1, even drivers with the money of Pastor Maldonado have moved on.

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If you were to go through the whole 10 years in the F1 game, even with driver retirements now a thing you won't get that much turnover. There will still be a huge chunk of the grid from Season 1 around by the time you got to Season 10. That's a problem when it comes to realism and immersion.

Even with the 2020 F2 roster available for promotion, you won't get much promotion, for another reason that needs addressing.

Driver stats need work

If you play FIFA, Football Manager, or any other sports title, you know that young players develop at quite a pace. You don't have to wait around too long for a young starlet to develop into a world-beater. In F1 that doesn't happen.

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That's because while you are racing around in F1, the game isn't simming an F2 season in the background, giving drivers a chance to develop stats like the F1 drivers are. As a result, no AI team wants to promote one unless they have to as their overall rating is much lower than even the shakiest F1 veteran.

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Why would you grab Jehan Daruvala and his 64 overall when you can sign Nicholas Latifi's 71 overall? Even three seasons in, those F2 driver stats won't grow, while Latifi, Nikita Mazepin, and Yuki Tsunoda will keep developing with more experience and racing.

As a result, while retirements will force F2 drivers to be picked up, it won't be at any great clip. Further stifling the kind of driver turnover F1 fans are used to seeing on the actual grid.

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Some of this can be improved by having former drivers available for hiring. Adding Hulkenberg, Alex Albon, Romain Grosjean, and Kevin Magnussen into the Driver Market would give teams more options to create turnover, and having the F2 category running in the background will let racers like Dan Ticktum and Guanyu Zhou the chance to develop into actual F1 talents.

Adding F3 drivers

Even that doesn't create a fully realistic career though. Adding in F3 drivers will help that. We don't need the full cars coming in, but adding racers like Dennis Hauger, Jack Doohan, and Frederik Vesti that could break into your Career Mode in Season 5 and beyond will generate a game that feels more like a complete F1 universe.

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We've all gone so deep into a sports save that the best players in the world are made up computer regens. Why couldn't an F1 game save reach a point where only the youngest current drivers, like Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc, are still around and the rest of the grid is made up of those that started in F2, F3, and even beyond.

10 years ago Norris wasn't even racing karts, why couldn't a computer-generated driver make their way through the system to appear right at the end of your save?

All of this would add another layer of playability and realism to the single-player F1 experience, and encourage you to keep playing after you wrap up your first World Championship.