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F1 in the Future - Simulation and Gaming

F1 in the Future - Simulation and Gaming
Dec 30, 2009, 11:42 AM

We are coming to the end of this Christmas series.

We are coming to the end of this Christmas series. I hope you have found it interesting and thought provoking. Thanks for all your comments.

The sport is fully engaged at the moment in thinking about its short term future; how to spice up the racing, how to balance sport with entertainment and how best to harness the power of the online media to boost the following.

I thought it would be interesting to look a little further ahead and that is what this series has been all about.

The final post is on simulation tools, commonly used today by teams, and their application in gaming to open the sport to a much wider range of children, who will become the drivers of tomorrow.

Most F1 teams have very sophisticated simulators. The McLaren team has been working on simulation for longer than the other teams and has invested more. Ferrari recently unveiled its new simulator, while even new teams like Virgin Racing have one. It is seen as indispensable these days.

That investment is now paying dividends. McLaren's unit, which is considered the most sophisticated, allows the driver to feel every bump in every race track on the calendar and make changes to his car, even featuring the latest parts under development. The drivers need to spend very little time now setting their cars up during practice sessions at a race weekend as that work has all been done in a simulator before the cars were packed onto the transporter. The driver still has to use his inbuilt ‘feel’ to fine tune certain aspects, but even that aspect of the driver’s art is disappearing.

The rise of simulators and pin-point accurate GPS positioning technology, even of a fast moving object like a racing car, gives rise to unlimited gaming possibilities which could attract a whole new fanbase to the sport. In the US the Colin McRace driving game became hugely popular, but fans initially didn't realise that McRae was a real person - they thought he was a Lara Croft-type made up character. WRC research shows that quite a few of them took an interest in rallying once they learned the truth!

It is clear that very soon fans will be able to sit in their game chair at home and virtually take part in a Grand Prix. This raises the question of whether people will still turn on a TV at an allotted time in order to watch a live sporting event like a race, or whether the main purpose of the event and certainly a major source of revenue, will be allowing the public to virtually compete with the Grand Prix stars of the day. There will be a blurring of the lines between the virtual and the real, which will reflect wider changes in society brought about by gaming.

The star drivers of 20 years from now are likely to be far better trained and therefore more able than today’s stars. Today if you have £4 million and a son with some talent, you have a one in three chance of getting him into F1 by buying his way through the junior formulae in the best cars. It is very hard to get past the first hurdle which is karting.

Soon new ways will have evolved to evaluate and train drivers, using gaming and simulations and this will make it much less elitist. They will still need to drive real karts and cars of course, but the FIA is determined to drive down costs on these in future, to make the sport more accessible. Those drivers who make it through will truly be the best of the best. If you compare it to athletics, the standard is far higher today than 40 years ago because there is a bigger pool of talent to choose from. Lottery finding and other sources of income have democratised the sport. F1 which has always been elitist, will still be about the best of the best, but the pool from which they emerge will be far larger.

F1 engineers all agree that the young drivers coming into F1 today, like Sebastian Vettel, are all far more computer savvy and technically intuitive than the great drivers of the past. This process accelerates with each new generation of children enjoying ever more sophisticated gaming experiences.

Gaming recently overtook Hollywood in terms of turnover as a business and this will only increase and from it will come a new generation of super-drivers.

Thanks for all your feedback and ideas throughout this series.

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