F1 2021 is coming out tomorrow on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam and Origin. This will be the first edition in the series to be published by EA Sports since 2003’s F1 Career Challenge, following the $1.2 billion acquisition of Codemasters by Electronic Arts.

Chris already previewed the game a while ago, but we also recently had the opportunity to interview the development team to find out more about the new features and mechanics of F1 2021.

F1 2021 Hands-on Preview – Hitting the Braking Point

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Which of the improvements planned for F1 2021 are you most proud of?

Without a doubt, it’s the quality bar we’ve hit with Braking Point. Not only does it have a compelling story with great characters, but it looks amazing. To think we managed to achieve all of that under the current circumstances really speaks volumes for the quality of the team and the partners who joined us for this project.

Any plans to add:

  • Classic tracks from older games, like Hockenheimring, Nuerburgring, and Sepang International Circuit?
  • More layouts for existing tracks, like Bahrain International Circuit – Endurance Circuit and Outer Circuit?

Regarding any additional circuits, I’d never say never. Circuits are a very resource-heavy element to create. This year, we’ve focused on adding the three new circuits, Portimão, Imola, and Jeddah, as free post-launch content. We have also spent significant time working on a visual uplift across existing circuits.

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  • More simulation features, like 3-section tyre surface temperature simulation, 3-section tyre-wear simulation, 3D puddles, chassis flex, and tyre deformation?

Under the surface, our tyre model is split into three sections: the inner, middle, and outer. We average that data when it’s presented to the user through the on-screen display. We also continue to model the carcass and surface temperature of the tyre.

  • Optional dedicated servers for multiplayer modes?

We’re continually evolving our multiplayer experience. This year we’ve focused on the gargantuan task of two-player Career and all the systems that need to work hand-in-hand for it.
Enabling players to race against each other within the same platform ecosystem was another big focus. We wanted to ensure we launched F1 2021 with Xbox One gamers able to play with Xbox Series X|S gamers, and PS4 players with PS5 owners.

Are you considering an option to completely remove the halo from the cockpit view to make it feel less claustrophobic?

That’s not something we’ve considered. The halo is a key safety element on an F1 car and a significant part of the aesthetic of the vehicle. When we originally implemented it, we did allow the removal of the central pillar to aid visibility. When playing in cockpit view it’s possible to adjust the position of the camera, and the field of view, to allow the player to find a perspective that best suits them.

Will the safety car be seen more frequently on the track in F1 2021?

We’ve worked extensively on the safety car logic and the criteria for when it should be triggered. It’s one of the areas which we’re testing during our beta phase.

Will the AI tend to crash more than in last year’s edition?

It’s hard to give a definitive answer on this as we don’t do anything which forces our AI to have accidents. We work incredibly hard to create AI drivers which are fast and possess fantastic wheel-to-wheel racecraft. That’s not to say they won’t make mistakes and have accidents, especially when being forced into locking up when under pressure, as an example.

Would you consider adding the Sprint race qualification format for some tracks post-launch?

As Sprint races in F1 are currently an idea being trialed, we won’t be adding them to F1 2021. We will be updating this year’s game with the F2 2021 season post-launch, along with the revised weekend structure that includes two sprint races and a feature-length race.

How did you improve the online experience in F1 2021? Is it possible to queue with friends?

To improve the online experience in F1 2021 we’ve made several changes to the unranked area of Multiplayer. The area which is now titled ‘Play Online’ will feature two templated lobby set-ups.
The new templated lobbies are a simplified way of getting players racing together. The first template is designed to introduce beginners to online play – collision is disabled between cars and the race distance is shorter. The second template has collision turned on and includes some of the more typical race settings and distances. Players can use the updated server browser to find a lobby or host their own game.

Is the showmanship/sportsmanship still in the plans for the future?

The concept of sportsmanship/showmanship is present but with so many other elements feeding into the player’s Career and My Team progression, we rolled that system into some of the new ones we’ve added. A prime example is how answers to the press and how you engage with the new Department Events feature within My Team can impact your department’s motivation.

The concept of sportsmanship/showmanship was to drive a team’s motivation, pushing them to recruit a driver of a certain character type and skill. With the more advanced and engaging Driver Market, a feature we added in F1 2020, this became less of a key focus.

Can you give us the details on your implementation of ray tracing? Which effects will be raytraced?

We use ray tracing through many parts of F1 2021 in several forms. The new hardware has allowed us to take advantage of this more than ever with new techniques in reflections and shadows. On new-gen consoles (Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5) and PC, ray tracing will be used in cut scenes, replays, Photo Mode, and within the front end.

What was your impression of the next-generation consoles? Will they have visual parity with the PC version, including ray tracing?

The newest consoles are very powerful which opens great opportunities for us, including ray tracing. We’ll no doubt improve our techniques in the future but we’re very happy with our first foray into developing for gen 5.

Did you exploit the unique features of the DualSense controller?

PlayStation 5 owners will be able to experience that extra layer of feel and immersion offered by the new adaptive triggers.

Was it harder to optimize F1 2021 for the Xbox Series S given its lower specifications?

We have a lot of experience in optimising our games over a wide range of hardware, so this was treated like all the other platforms that we support without any issues.

On the PC preview build, we’ve seen that it was possible to activate DLSS but only with an on/off switch, whereas most games allow finer control through the various DLSS modes. Will this be available once F1 2021 launches?

We are constantly reviewing features like DLSS and assessing how best to utilise them for our games to get the best quality output.

What do you think of AMD’s new FSR? Could it be added to F1 2021 post-launch?

Again, we are constantly reviewing new technologies and work closely with a wide range of IHVs but we don’t have any specific information on FSR yet.

One of the most requested features from the PC community is official support for Virtual Reality headsets. Is this something you’re actively evaluating?

VR is and has been a long-standing topic of conversation for us. This year we focused the efforts of our rendering team on ensuring we could offer a fantastic next-gen experience on the new platforms. Their priority with this was to enable the largest number of players to get the most out of their new consoles and PC hardware.

Thank you for your time.