It’s been nearly four months since F1 22 launched, and over six months since the season opener for the championship on which it’s based, but the true competition has only just started.
For the drivers of the 2022 F1 Esports Series Pro Championship, their year is only a quarter complete. We were able to talk to some of the highest-level competitors to collect some of the best tips, which will hopefully improve your speed.
And these aren’t just tips for how to hit apices and which pedal does what.
These are high-level tips for those who are either thinking about making the jump to league racing or who already have. Or perhaps, just for those who take the challenge of beating their friends at video games very seriously.
This year we’ve spoken to six professional drivers, including the inaugural F1 Esports Champion and current Ferrari Esports driver Brendon Leigh and back-to-back race winner of this 2022 season and current McLaren Shadow driver Lucas Blakeley.
Then we have current F1 Esports Series Pro drivers Matthijs van Erven (Haas) Luke Smith (Alpine), 2022 F1 Esports Pro Exhibition driver Harvey Cowan, and 2021 F1 Esports Challengers driver VSR Jake W.
These six highly talented virtual Formula 1 drivers have each provided us with their own set of tips, which we’ve collated into six distinct categories, all with the aim of making you quicker at F1 22.
Practice, but not as you know it
As Allen Iverson and Ted Lasso once said: “We’re talking about PRACTICE.”
We’re going to get the more obvious one out of the way immediately, because, let’s be honest, you saw this one coming from a DRS zone away.
It’s no surprise that drivers of the highest level would be singing the praise of practice. Yet, it’s not just about putting in the hours, it’s about how you practice.
“When preparing for a league race if you have, let’s say, three hours of preparation, then you should be spending, in my opinion, no more than an hour of it in the Time Trial mode,” explained Blakeley.
“Taking part in online races is essential and is worth more than just doing lots of laps in an unrepresentative mode. An easy way to improve preparation is to focus on online practice and replicating qualifying and race runs.”
Lucas isn’t the only driver who mentioned practice, and more specifically online practice.
“Us esports drivers didn’t get to where we were [by] just hopping on and playing, so it’s best to have some routine where you can practice for any race you have coming up while also having fun with friends,” highlighted Cowan.
Practice has diminishing returns and can be extremely boring, which is where the network-connected play becomes useful, but so does racing computer-controller rivals.
“[I think] the best way to learn a new track is to go straight into a 50 per cent or 100 per cent length race and just keep doing laps against AI to build muscle memory and also to gain a feel for the different tyres,” said VSR Jake W.
“After that go into an online qualifier, so you cannot cheat with flashbacks, and practice qualifying and racing with equally-skilled friends.”
“This will also best prepare you for league races as the online cars feel different to the cars in Grand Prix and Time Trial mode.”
We’ve already discussed the importance of practising with people who are faster than you, but now we move to watching people who are faster than you.
This can help with things like braking points, gear selection, turn-in points, lines through corners, and so on.
“Watching laps from esports drivers or anyone who is faster than you can help a lot,” said Cowan.
“By doing this you can see if you need to adjust your braking and turn in points or see if their lines are different to yours.”
“Analysing your own race or fastest laps from time trial or qualifying can also be helpful. As humans, we are our own biggest critics so we can be brutally honest with ourselves which can help when trying to spot our own mistakes.”
Jake takes it slightly further…
“[I think] the best thing to do is to watch league races to learn what times you should be aiming for in qualifying and the race, plus learning pitstop strategies,” said VSR Jake W.
“When it comes to watching hot laps, slow the video in 0.5x speed to see exactly how they approach, enter and exit the corners, because it is the small things which make the big differences.”
It might seem tedious but if you want to find those final tenths to reach the level of an F1 Esports driver then you’ll need to go over replays and hot laps with a fine-tooth comb, and not just other people’s laps but also your own.
When it comes to the philosophy of F1 game racing our pros had several suggestions. First things first though, we need to discuss the braking techniques.
“When turning ABS off don’t hold the brake 100 per cent through the entry phase of a corner. Start at 100 per cent, and then slowly ease off the closer you get to the apex,” explained Cowan
“With the new cars for 2022, trail braking and rotating via the pedals is more important than ever, so being precise with your throttle and brake inputs can gain you a lot of time,” echoed Smith.
Learning how to trail brake and easing off the pedal as you get closer to the apex is a skill that is always relevant in F1 games, across the generations, and is even something we mentioned in last year’s guide.
But it seems this valuable skill has increased yield in the latest iteration of the franchise.
Smooth is fast
In a league, vehicle performance is equalised. Thus, understanding how the online car behaves will pay dividends when it comes to lap times, tyre wear, and more. Driving the car smoothly is a key skill.
“Tyre management is mainly just about driving smooth and minimising the number of inputs you make, especially erratic ones such as saving the car from spins/wheelspin,” said Smith.
And with two wins and a podium already under his belt this season in F1 Esports, Blakeley confirms that theory.
“Being smooth and controlled on entry and maximising traction and grip for the exit is essential to getting that green delta,” showcased Blakeley.
The benefits go far beyond a few hundredths, as well. Fewer spins mean more reliable points scoring and fewer rounds without points, while less wheelspin will ensure your tyres are in the best possible condition towards the end of the stint when the car is lighter with fuel.
If you want to extend that stint and possibly do an overcut on your rival, then learning to save fuel and battery is very valuable.
“Fuel and ERS can be saved when you’re behind someone in a DRS train. Both can be looked after or harvested via lift and coast techniques.” continued Smith.
If you find yourself behind someone who is just a little too fast on the straights to overtake for your setup, learn how to use the drag reduction system and slipstream to lift and coast your way to better fuel economy, opening up opportunities later in the race via things like an undercut, overcut, or more rich fuel usage in the following stint.
Start again with F1 22
This latest title in the series is quite a bit different from anything else we’ve gotten from Codemasters, thanks in part to the new real-world regulations and a new in-game tyre model.
Therefore, your techniques from last year’s F1 2021 game might not apply to this year’s release.
“Don’t expect last year’s setups to work!” enthusiastically explained Blakeley.
“This game is radically different not just to drive but also on how you get the best from the car, so it’s better to start with a blank canvas than try and use a 2021 setup.”
Corner exit speed is crucial
Having precise control over your steering wheel and, even more crucially, your throttle and brake pedals, will aid with rotation, get your delta in the green, and maintain your tyres better. And if this point had not been driven home yet enough, let the current points leader in F1 Esports cement this for you…
“F1 22 is all about exits! Compared to last year, there is a lot more emphasis on getting the corner exit correct to gain lap time in this year’s platform, so if you are sitting wondering ways to improve, the corner exit is probably a good place to start.” continued Blakeley.
If our F1 pros are this focused on being smooth and precise with your inputs, then it’s safe to say we should probably listen to them.
In last year’s game, for example, drifting was often the fastest way around a corner. We’re not talking full-bore Fast and Furious style drifts, of course, but having all four wheels pointing in the same direction was not always the quickest style.
It seems that meta has shifted, however, with cleanliness being next to rapidness, rather than godliness.
Brake bias and differential settings
“Use 50 brake bias and 55 differential,” said Cowan.
That’s it. That’s the advice.
This is a good starting point when it comes to car set-up in F1 22. This single sentence isn’t going to turn you into a professional esports driver, but it should help save you hours of frustration and get you pointed in the right direction.
Confidence inspiring set-ups
Building on the philosophies learnt earlier, it’s important that you are doing everything in your power to ensure that you can consistently drive the car quickly without burning up the tyres or feeling like you’re going to end up buried in track furniture at any moment.
The best way to assist yourself in having that smooth, controlled driving style that Luke and Lucas recommend is to set-up the car properly.
“It’s important you’re confident with the car,” said van Erven.
“Aggressive set-ups might be quicker, but if you’re not confident with them, don’t use them. Build confidence and change things bit-by-bit from there on.”
Building confidence extends beyond the setup of the car, though, explains Matthijs.
“Driving wise it’s the same actually, build confidence, and from there on start working on yourself.”
Once you’ve found that set-up which works in both qualifying and in the race, take it into an online lobby and start turning event after event.
Once you get to a high level of competitive sim racing in F1 22 you’ll find that, more often than not, what really separates the great drivers is the ability to perform under pressure.
“My best advice comes within the mentality; I’ve made mistakes in the past from not remaining calm,” explained former champion, Brendon Leigh.
“Sounds easy but it’s not in the heat of the moment.”
Every driver feels pressure, at every level of competition and every driver at the top level can perform extremely well when nobody is watching.
What makes someone a winner, or a champion, is the ability to perform your best when it matters most.
“I’ve found remembering the big picture and that the championship is long helps me make better decisions in the moment” continued Leigh.
“We can all learn set-ups, and the physical driving techniques, but all that is put to waste if the driver’s mentality isn’t strong.
“Stay composed, set goals and enjoy overcoming the challenges of improving. It’s a difficult process but the rewards are definitely worth the effort spent.
“Have fun also! We started driving because we enjoyed it, keep it that way.”
This is where the idea of setting the right goals comes from. If you’re brand new to sim racing and set yourself your first goal of becoming the F1 Esports world champion, then you will find yourself being very disappointed for a very, very, long time.
“Don’t compare to the quickest times from the start because it might demotivate you [from] playing,” said van Erven.
“Look at yourself and not so much at others.”
For your first league or competitive online race, your goal should just be to not take anyone else out. Try to avoid contact completely. Then you can focus on finishing your own event. Then maybe you try to get your first points. And then your first podium. And first pole position. And then your first race win, your first championship, your first promotion to a higher split within the league, and so on.
Sim racing is a journey, and we all start at the bottom. Respect the climb. When you make mistakes, learn from them. Your worst races are your biggest opportunity for education.
The wisdom that these six drivers impart, collectively, is enough to shape the career of any inexperienced league racing hopeful into something that can be built upon and expanded.
Heed their advice and you, too, may one day find yourself with a prestigious career in sim racing and a strange, bearded, man (ahem) in your DMs asking for tips on how to drive faster in a video game…