Microprose Formula One Grand Prix - Full-length Season With a Modern Racing Wheel & Pedals
Thoughts about the completed Micoprose F1 Grand Prix "HC" season
Race won by Friedrich Bang!
So if you haven't checked it out already, here's the whole thing from race one:
The idea was to drive an entire season of Formula One Grand Prix by Geoff Crammond. Full-length races, no traction help, no steering help, no driving aids and NOT with a keyboard but with a racing wheel and pedals. Also no restarts if something goes wrong. And boy there were a lot of things that went wrong!
Also I decided to stream all the races live on Youtube to document the thing - and also to keep myself honest! It's so tempting to restart a race or load a save if something goes wrong, but to me it kinda ends up ruining the experience. Livestreaming seems to end shenanigans like this effectively.
I'll also do same thing with Grand Prix 2, Grand Prix 3 and Grand Prix 4 so subscribe to the Youtube channel if you're interested!
So this is the aftermath of the season from our magnificent (but insecure) imaginary racing driver, Friedrich Bang from France! Or Germany. Not sure.
I kinda thought it would be easy. I mean, of course a lot more difficult than with a keyboard, but still. Some time ago I drove a season with a keyboard, didn't even bother to practice, qualify nor set up the car. Just went into a race, started from the back of the grid and won the world title hands down. But with a keyboard you have to use steering help and real F1 cars don't have it! Well, maybe Williams FW14 did but that was a year later.
So I thought that if I'll put a little more effort into it I should win the championship with a racing wheel and pedals – a bit more realistic setup. I (SPOILER) was wrong.
Not the scenery you want to see from your cockpit!
This is just an overlook of the driving experience, physics, difficulty and overall experience. If you want to see the individual races plz watch the 32 hours of racing on Youtube. I know you have nothing better to do.
How does it drive?
Of course I got some questions of how does a game this old drive with a modern racing wheel.
At first it was a nightmare. The wheel was super sensitive and the car was insanely difficult to control in fast corners and chicanes. Going to the first race in Phoenix I knew I'd be having a hard time in the fast corners even if I was couple of seconds per lap faster than the AI. I tried to play it safe but ended up crashing and retiring.
The season was a learning experience and in the end I got it right and it was great to drive! For one thing I had to update the game to version 1.05 so I could edit the “max lock” value which made steering a lot smoother and more accurate.
Well.... eh... it's a game from 1991! Can't really compare it to the modern sims. First of all it doesn't feel you're driving a thing with weight. When the race starts, the car is heavy, but you don't feel the weight, it just doesn't have any grip. The weight transfer doesn't work properly (if there is one). Also if you floor it in exit of a corner the rear wheels spin like crazy but the rear doesn't really come loose the way it should.
But as I said, it's a game from 1991. There's no way computers back then could've handled a physics engine more complicated than this. At the time my 16 Mhz 386 had big difficulties with this game and had to run with 15 FPS.
Apart from the physics, I was actually very surprised how profound and dynamic the driving model actually is!
At the beginning of a race the car is heavy because of all the fuel. Also tyres are cold and the car is horrible to drive but when tyres get up to heat it gets a lot better. Obviously soft tires are faster but wear quickly - but they also heat up faster than the hard ones! Also if you spin to the grass the grip disappears for a while since tyres are dirty. Losing control of the car also affects tyre-wear! After a pit-stop you have to take it easy for a few laps because of the cold tyres. At the end of a race, if you have fresh tyres and the fuel has burnt away the car feels insanely fast and you just drive in rapture!
I think you also feel the dynamics of the driving model better if you use a racing wheel. Many of the things mentioned above I didn't notice when I played with a keyboard.
Anyway, not bad from a game almost 30 years old! There are countless of newer or even quite modern “sims” that overlook many of these things or execute them poorly.
As said, the game is obviously a lot more difficult with a racing wheel with no steering help etc. The biggest issue to me was that I wasn't able the “feel” the understeer of the car. So I pushed wide in some corners, got to the grass and spun. There's no force feedback (no s*** sherlock) but you should hear the understeer from the squealing tyres. Somehow that felt a bit inconsistent at times and some times the car seemed to be pushing even if the tyres weren't squealing. (Or it might be that I just stink. Shhh, don't tell anyone.)
Also I got many races ruined by the AI. Good thing about driving with a wheel is that steering help isn't restricting you and it's easier maneuver to overtake AI cars. Bad side is that if you hit them, you pretty much spin every single time. AI doesn't really do much to avoid it so on some tracks the backmarkers are pure horror to deal with.
At most tracks the AI is not very fast and it's easy to win even if you make mistakes (or retire, as Friedrich Bang did... what... seven times?). I felt the best races were Silverstone. Barcelona and Suzuka, cause AI was very competitive and it was great racing them!
Even on the tracks were AI is competitive they fall short with their tyre “strategies”. Basically AI pits once, or not at all. This means that with fresh rubber you're about 4 seconds a lap faster than AI at the end of the race! Since there's no pit speed limits it's most certainly profitable to run the race with multiple sets of soft tyres.
F1GP does a great job simulating an F1-event, but of course lacks some of the depth compared to the newer Grand Prix games. There are not a lot of retirements since there's no mechanical failures. Also you don't get much information on whats going on in the race, like pit-stops etc.
Overall going trough the season was a nice experience and it was great to see other people enjoy the streams/videos as well! We got some great races, some boring races, some intense races, and some sad races. A roller coaster of emotion!
Also nowadays I find it kinda boring to play by my myself so it's great to share this stuff on Youtube to people who share similar interest towards these great old racing sims!
I've started preparing the next season. We'll move to GP2 and I'm really looking forward to that! The driving model and physics are something completely different and races are more dynamic and variable. I'll go deeper into GP2 in some other blog.
I would like to start the season asap, but about a week ago my wife gave birth to a little girl! So last week has been hectic to put it mildly. We have to let things settle down a bit before I can concentrate on Grand Prix 2, but should't be too far now. So stay tuned for the return of Friedrich Bang!