The 'live the life' side of the game encasing the racing has also been improved. Your career from rookie to world champion is brought to life with the same host of features as last year. As well as a computer full of emails from important people in the FIA, your paddock comes complete with its very own reporter, who perpetually loiters outside, looking to shove a microphone in your face for a quote or two at every opportunity. For the 2011 season, a new press feedback system allows the player to suck up to their bosses or slag off their team-mates to a much greater degree than before. As before, this has the potential to affect future contracts and how other drivers react to you on the track.
Getting from paddock to track is an arduous processes. A calendar hanging off the wall keeps track of where you are in the season, allowing you to move to the next location when you're ready. The shift from one country to another is separated by one lengthy loading screen, followed by another screen showing off various press clippings from the previous race. Yet another screen is sandwiched between the paddock and the garage, then there's a bit of farting about before you're actually able to get out on the track. A new Grand Prix mode on the main menu allows you to jump into a quick race - or long race weekend - without all the guff in between, however.
Codemasters is the first to admit that the multiplayer side of the game was lacking in 2010, and bringing out this side of the experience has been of chief concern to the studio this time around. The game now supports 24 cars on the grid in multiplayer - 16 real-life drivers, and 8 AI. The netcode is as robust as you'd expect, taking the strain of all those car models well. The objective system knitting together the single-player career also makes an appearance here, rewarding players that meet certain requirements - qualify 10th or above, for example - with precious XP.
Perhaps the most significant addition to multiplayer is a co-op career, which lets two players team up for a season. While you'll drive for the same manufacturer, the fun here is derived from the rivalry between partners - the constant battle to become the boss' favourite. I'd originally planned to enlist the services of my F1-mad father to help test the feature out (he helped me review F1 2010, after all), but an opportunity didn't present itself this year.
Those - like me - who are enticed by the prospect of proving their worth against a parent or sibling at home will be disappointed. The co-op career is limited to online play only, and doesn't support split-screen. Presumably this is because a potential 48 cars on the screen at any one time is simply too much to handle. Still, it's a shame that it's missing. Racing head-to-head with a friend can of course still be done locally, continuing the split-screen trend racing games have adopted in the last few years.
More important than anything else I've mentioned thus far, Formula 1 2011 introduces the safety car, which will interrupt the race after a more serious vehicular altercations, stop all overtaking, and lead the pack single file around the track. It's not much fun for speed freaks, but it's what the fans wanted - nay, demanded. If you're the type of person that plays at 20 per cent race length or more, on hard, with damage on, chances are you're the type of gamer that will appreciate such a feature. For everybody else, be thankful it isn't available on other settings.
Formula 1 2011 fixes things that were broken, adds things that were missing and iterates wherever possible. It's the little things that the core F1 audience will appreciate: the oscillating body work, revamped pit stops, improved tyre degradation, a dynamic cloud system. While casual players might question whether much is different a year down the road after 2010, those in the know - those whose second home is behind a steering wheel - will agree that F1 2011 is the most complete representation of the sport to date.