F1 2013 features not only all the new cars, circuits and drivers but also classic content from past decades of F1 history. The game looks a treat, even on the Xbox 360 versions we played through.
We spent the majority of our time racing around Brands Hatch in Jones’ 1980 Williams. Having the Aussie F1 legend describe the intricacies of gearing for Dingle Dell and how to approach Clark Curve actually helped a great deal.
According to the aficionados on hand at the pre-release event, F1 2013 features comprehensive changes to the handling of the latest F1 cars to make them feel far more surefooted at the front. Players can be more aggressive into corners, but still have to be mindful of applying the right amount of power on the way out.
Turning on the rain effects completely changes the game-play, and the bad weather option gives the game a wonderfully realistic sheen of water. But although it looks a treat in cockpit view, the water droplets obscuring your visor also highlight the unnatural rigidity of head movement in the game.
Driving the classic race cars alongside the likes of Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell and many other F1 giants of the early 1980s is another highlight, and becomes an intensely nerve-wracking affair as you guide your F1 car through traffic.
So what impression does the game make on Alan Jones?
Asked if it was the lack of inertia as you hurtle around the circuit’s bends that makes the game difficult, Jones said: “Oh no, when you go over the curbs and so forth it has the feedback.
“I just found the steering very sensitive, which most of them are. It’s just a matter of getting used to it, but I think the concept is fantastic.”
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So car set-up -- even of the virtual variety -- is important?
“Absolutely,” he said. “Some people understeer, some people oversteer, some like the steering to be more pointy or less pointy. Yeah, there are a whole lot of different variations to tailor the car to suit you.
“And I think that is great, because kids love that. Half the battle is getting the car organised to race it -- setting it all up.”
One thing becomes clear as Jones watches another taking his championship-winning car through its paces: he has an eye for detail. He is amazed that Codemasters managed to recreate subtle touches such as cockpit toggle switches, but points out that the helmet livery is slightly wrong.
He also said the inside of his car was black rather than white, as it appears on the screen. “I didn’t want any marks or spots distracting me from the road ahead,” he explained.
F1 2013 is surrounded by a lot of buzz about returning to a bygone era of F1 racing and highlighting the differences between F1 cars through the ages. Does Jones feel this is a feature players will appreciate?
“I think it is a great idea because it gives everybody of every age the opportunity to drive any car,” he said.
“A young bloke can say ‘I wonder what it was like to drive one of those ground-effects cars?’ Or an older bloke that followed motor racing when he was a kid now has an opportunity to race the car he used to look at. I think it is fantastic.”
What about the drivers from those eras? Does Jones feel this game captures the driving styles and on-track personalities of the competitors?
“That is one thing that has been consistent right throughout,” he said. “When you get into Formula One and you have done a year or two you get to know the people you don’t double-guess -- the people you can drive close to -- and those you need to keep away from, and so that’s all part of the game.”
The obvious question is how he feels modern F1 cars differ from those in his era.
“People often ask me that question and say ‘when you raced it was the good old days’. Well, you know, I reckon 15 years from now these will be the good old days.
“Formula One is ever changing and I think you have got to embrace that because it chases technology. I mean, I am a steward every now and then at a grand prix, and even the technology they give us now to help us reach a decision is just incredible.”
“I think the rivalries are there, but the problem is that they are not allowed to show it,” he said. “They are not allowed to talk about it, and they are not allowed to show their feelings.
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“I went to China the first time the Chinese Grand Prix was on, and I went around the circuit and felt there were too many hairpins – it was a bit too samey. And then I saw these interviews [with the drivers] saying what a great circuit it was and how they all loved it.
“I went out and spoke to a couple of them in private and they were saying ‘too many bloody hairpins, it’s too samey’. So I said ‘well why didn’t you say that?’ [They said] ‘Oh, well our particular manufacturer sells a lot of cars here and if I can the circuit it might rub off badly on the product’, and I just think that is a shame.
So it goes beyond professionalism?
“It’s just got too corporate,” he said. “You talk to a modern Formula One driver today and it takes twice as long to interview him. He’s thinking about the next word he has got to say, so it doesn’t offend anybody or alienate the company that he is driving for.
“Kimi Raikkonen is probably as close to an older style driver that there is out there at the moment. He talks his mind, says what he thinks, and I think that is why he is one of the most popular drivers out there,” said Jones.
Is modern F1 technology pushing the boundaries of safety and economy at the expense of pursuing raw speed?
“Well they are always trying to do that,” he said, “but the boffins find ways around it and bring back up the speed in no time at all. The big byword at the moment is eco-friendly – it’s one of the reasons they are going back to 1.6-litre turbocharged engines, which makes a lot of sense because smaller car engines that are turbocharged are more friendly in a lot of ways than a whopping big V8 which just guzzles up juice and pushes out emissions.
“A long time ago they used to say ‘racing improved the breed’ for a long time that didn’t happen. In fact, road cars were more sophisticated than Formula One cars because Formula One cars were banned from having self-levelling suspension and traction control, launch control and so forth.
“But now with the advent of KERS and even DRS, these are the sort of things that can go onto a road car that can help economy and not necessarily hinder performance.
“When I raced it was 200 miles for two hours with no fuel stops, no tyre stops. You had to look after your tyres and you didn’t get out of the car until you had done 200 miles or two hours. And then they brought in compulsory fuel stops which I thought was a bit silly. They have stopped them, but now there are compulsory tyre stops.
“But the KERS thing brings in a very interesting element. It will be more prevalent next year because it will give you another 100 horsepower rather than 40, so it will be more obvious what is going on and I quite enjoy that.”
What of the Australians that have followed Jones into the sport? How does Jones feel about Mark Webber’s retirement?
“Mark can hold his head very high,” said Jones. “He’s won eight or nine GPs, he’s been a very good ambassador for the sport and country and I think he has done a great job.
“There are not too many people, particularly Australians, that can say they had x amount of grand prix victories, that were at the pointy edge of the field for two or three years. Mark may not have become world champion, but he has done a hell of a lot better than other people.”
And what about the upcoming Aussie, Daniel Ricciardo, who’ll take Webber’s place in the Red Bull Racing team next year?
“I have rated Daniel for a while,” said Jones. “I tested him at Silverstone in an A1 car and I wanted to sign him up, but Helmut Marko wouldn’t release him.
“I said then that he’s going to go on into Formula One. Twenty-twenty hindsight is a wonderful thing to have, but I did actually say this -- it’s on record. He’s done very well and I think he will acquit himself well.”
Is there anybody else prominent in the Australian racing scene that could follow in the footsteps of Jones, Webber and Ricciardo?
“No, no Australians as such, which is a shame,” laments Jones. “We seem to go through eras were you have a lot of Italians, a lot of French, Germans. At one stage we had two Australians on the grid, now we have the one. I can’t see anybody at the moment that can come through and hopefully race against or take over from Daniel.
“I think the major problem is that we don’t have a sufficient structure for open-wheel racing in Australia. If you want to go open-wheel racing you’ve really got to go overseas. Formula Ford is finished; there is no Formula Ford as of this year. And Formula Three, which I like as a formula, they don’t have many cars starting.
“If you are a young bloke now you sort of say ‘do I go overseas and struggle and hope that I make it, or do I stay back here in Australia and try to get into V8 Supercars racing and make a couple of hundred grand a year, or up to a million if I’m successful?’, so the incentive is to stay here rather than go over there.
“What I’m saying is that we have somehow got to give them the incentive to go. There is a thing called the AMSF, the Australian Motor Sport Foundation, and they have various events to raise money to help kids to go over there, pay for accommodation, airfares, whatever.
“But even Formula Three in England is a million dollars. We need to get to a stage where there is sufficient money so these kids can show their talent -- otherwise we are in the wilderness.
So can games like F1 2013 help keep the Formula One buzz happening?
“Absolutely. If nothing else, maybe a young guy will bring the game home, play it in front of his old man who is the CEO of something and who knows where it might lead?”