F1 2013 – the F1 Fanatic review

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It’s around this time of the season in modern F1 when the same three occurrences take place. The silly season reaches fever pitch, Sebastian Vettel begins to dominate the final flyaway rounds en route to yet another title and Codemasters release the latest instalment of their official F1 game franchise.

But despite previous games proving to be critical and commercial successes, the Birmingham based developers haven’t yet managed to fully satisfy their most valued of customers – the hardcore fans.

After a relatively uninspiring update in 2012 – which added little of real substance to the franchise and even removed some key features from the earlier games – Codemasters are hoping that the most ambitious addition to the series to date will help them recapture the imaginations of fans across the globe.

F1 classics

Almost from the moment it was announced that Codemasters had secured the exclusive F1 rights back in 2008, fans have been calling on the developers to give them classic cars, tracks and drivers. This year, they finally have their wish – and it has been worth the wait.

What could have easily been a shallow gimmick is in fact a full extension to the main game. Players can drive famous F1 machinery spanning almost 40 years in Time Trial, Time Attack, in a custom Grands Prix and championships as well as a handful of scenario challenges, with virtually all of the same race settings as the 2013 cars.

Famous cars from the 1980s – such as the Lotus 100T and the FW12 – are included as standard, while the 1990s content available in the Classic Edition or via a paid download add all the Williams and Ferraris from the 1992, 1996 and 1999 seasons.

While only classic Jerez and Brands Hatch are available in the standard edition of the game – with Imola and Estoril added in the Classic edition and via download – they look superb and their high speed, flowing nature provides a much more exhilarating experience compared to many of the modern tracks. In a welcome move, all classic cars can be raced on any of the 2013 circuits, while the modern cars can also travel back in time to race on the classic circuits.

On-track, the classics are simply thrilling to drive and even more fun to race. Don’t expect Grand Prix Legends-level physics accuracy here – the handling is challenging yet forgiving, but nonetheless highly satisfying when you get it right.

Hold a high-speed slide through the turns in a 1980s car as you feel the tyres about to let go before burying the throttle on the exit and managing the turbo-induced wheelspin as you come onto a straight and it’s hard to not have a smile on your face.

When racing against nine legendary names at a time such as Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Mario Andretti and Mika Hakkinen, F1 Classics mode almost feels like a fulfilment of that ultimate F1 racing fantasy.

But as much as there is on offer, you can’t help but pine for even more cars and even more circuits. As Codemasters are almost certain to acquire the rights for more legendary machines for future instalments, this is a very enjoyable introduction to a mode that will hopefully become a hallmark of the series in years to come.

The 2013 season

Codemasters certainly chose the right year to add their Classic content as a mere ‘roster update’ for 2012 was never going to hold much attraction in a season with one fewer race and one fewer team to play with. Not that either HRT or Valencia’s street circuit represented the sport at its best.

As exciting as the F1 Classics mode is, Codemasters knew they could not neglect the 2013 side of the product and have made minor but welcome improvements to the single player gameplay.

Handling is more enjoyable than 2012 as the cars feel less heavy and sluggish than last year. The brakes feel more responsive too, with braking distances shortened and lock-ups occurring organically and believably.

Cars are now far more susceptible to wheelspin at low revs meaning drivers have to be more intelligent about their throttle use at race starts. Simply flooring the accelerator will lose you places even with traction control enabled.

The scaling of the tyre wear model to suit shorter race distances, which was removed from the last game, has been reinstated. So has the ability to race a custom championship with any official driver in Grand Prix mode.

At long last, players also now have the ability to save a race weekend at any point during practice, qualifying or the race itself and resume exactly where they left off – perfect for 100%-distance career enthusiasts.

The artificial intelligence of your rival drivers has been enhanced over 2012 too, with rivals now less inclined to give up positions when side-by-side with the player. AI cars still seem to shy away from diving down the inside of the player sometimes when they have a run, but they seem more aware of the player in practice and qualifying and are just as inclined to fight – and even have incidents with – other AI drivers in the race. While the AI in F1 2013 is not revolutionary, it is still far more fun to race computer-controlled opponents in this game than in certain other major racing series.

As with last year’s edition, the game begins at the Young Drivers’ Test at Abu Dhabi. While this scenario remains little changed from last year, thankfully the game allows any player with F1 2012 save data on their system to skip the tedium of the first day and skip straight to the day two challenges. Completing these will unlock Williams, then Force India, then Sauber as teams to begin with in career mode. Those who ace them all with have the opportunity to begin their F1 career alongside Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus.

The career mode itself is virtually identical to last year, using the same menu system and handling race weekends in much the same way. With the number of difficulty levels increased from four to five, players should find AI speed balancing issues less of a problem. Legend difficulty does feel more challenging this year, especially with slower cars, but teams continue to give players completely unrealistic qualifying and race targets at higher difficulties and it’s frustrating that this issue appears to have been unchanged from 2012.

Scenario mode

A new addition to the Proving Grounds mode for this year is the Scenario Mode. Rather than putting players into real situations from actual races like F1 games of old, F1 2013 offers up an interesting mix of hypothetical scenarios based around what an elite F1 driver may expect to face during their career.

The first series of scenarios focus on situations drivers often experience during their rookie season, such as recovering places after pitting with a broken front wing, while later scenario series see challenges based around the drama that occurs while in the midst of a tight championship battle.

It’s a novel and interesting take on a mode that’s been done many times before and with 20 total challenges in 2013 mode and five total challenges in F1 Classics – each with three different AI difficulty levels – this mode will provide players with more than just a simple distraction from the main single player campaigns.


Graphically, the series is looking better than ever. A new lighting system does a great job of bringing out the beauty and the vibrancy of the world’s best race circuits without appearing overly stylised.

In cockpit view, wing mirrors now give a much better indication of how close your rivals are. Car textures on the PS3 version appear smoother with less jagged edges than in previous games.

The sound has also been improved, with higher-pitched and throatier external engine notes making cars sound sweeter than ever. Audible bumps, scrapes and backfire pops under gear changes.

Online, the game offers no major changes of note from previous versions. The only addition of note is the ability to race Classics with all the freedom offered to 2013 cars, which will no doubt provide some fresh excitement to online racing. Serious online racing enthusiasts will rejoice in the fact that the penalty system can now be set to penalise corner cutting only, or even turned off completely.

Still room for improvement

As popular as this series is, it’s true that Codemasters have faced extensive criticism from fans and players for a number of issues that have been present in the first three instalments. Thankfully, it seems as though the developers have put more effort into quality control this year than in previous games.

The much-maligned penalty system has received attention and is a lot less strict than 2012 when it comes to collisions. Drivers should still expect penalties for major shunts, but minor knocks and inconsequential contact will result in either a warning or no action at all at the ‘realistic’ setting. Players will still find occasions when they are hit with a seemingly harsh penalty, but overall the game rewards you for driving sensibly and doesn’t seem to punish you for accidents in which you have no chance to avoid contact.

As spectacular as the damage system can be during major collisions, it remains rather too forgiving, with no option to increase damage sensitivity to provide a more realistic risk of retirement when hitting a wall. The Safety Car and red flag system remains and appears to function smoothly and properly, although it’s rare that a Safety Car situation occurs during an AI race, so expect to experience deployments mainly at tight street circuits.

There were no obvious game-breaking bugs to be found while testing the game for review and no ‘invisible walls’ to be found or crashed into. Unfortunately, it still seems that running 1-1 level wings, 1-1 ride heights and 11-11 spring stiffness is a viable set-up option for every track yet again, and it’s a shame that these extreme settings don’t result in making cars almost undriveable as they really should do.

But with all the improvements made under the hood, the one thing F1 2013 needs but noticeably lacks is a fresh coat of paint. As fun as the racing is, too much of the game feels identical to the previous three in the series. The same pre-race cinematic from the original F1 2010 remains, as does the woefully limited replay system and car set-up parameters. Post-race celebration animations are identical to F1 2011, as are much of the engineer’s radio messages. Even the main menu music has been recycled from last year’s game.

While these are all relatively minor gripes, they will, for veterans of the series, detract from that sense that you’re playing an entirely new game, even though there is considerable fresh content on hand this year. With F1 undergoing a technical revolution next season and the next generation of consoles appearing in a matter of months, 2014 would be the perfect opportunity for Codemasters to give their series a much needed fresh new look.


F1 2013 – like previous games in the series – is not and does not pretend to be a simulation. Those who are seeking Papyrus or SimBin-level attention to detail and immersion will, once again, be disappointed. But that is not and has never been the aim of this series and what Codemasters have attempted to do is to make a fun and rewarding F1 game that can be enjoyed by casual and hardcore fans alike.

With this year’s game, Codemasters have not only given us an enjoyable F1 experience, they have also reaffirmed their commitment to make F1 games that are truly worthy of carrying the famous logo. If F1 2012 felt at times like a half-hearted update, F1 2013 feels like a good step back in the direction where this franchise should be going.

Despite some shortcomings, there is plenty of new content for fans to get excited about for this year, as well as some decent, welcome improvements to the core experience of the game. In F1 2013, Codemasters haven’t quite hit the dizzy heights that they are no doubt aiming for, but they have provided an experience that is superior in every regard to its predecessor and is the best instalment of this franchise to date.

F1 Fanatic rating

Buy F1 2013

Buy F1 2013 Classic Edition (PS3)

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Buy F1 2013 (PS3)

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Buy F1 2013 (PC)

F1 2013: Classic Edition for PC available as a download only.

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F1 2013 pictures

F1 2013

Publisher: Codemasters
Published: October 4th 2013
F1 2013 Classic Edition price: ??44.99/??44.99/??39.99 (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
F1 2013 price: ??39.99/??39.99/??20.00 (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)


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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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50 comments on “F1 2013 – the F1 Fanatic review”

  1. Just started career, and I have to say there is a big improvement in the ability of the AI. In 2012, I was easily able to out-qualify my team mate by 2 seconds (on Legend), but this year, it is far closer, with Bianchi only 2 tenths behind (Though quali isn’t quite finished as I write this), and that’s a very good sign!

  2. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
    4th October 2013, 13:22

    Yeah I have started career too and raced Australia. Starting P18, I realised how good the AI is as compared to 2012! Loving it, will finally be able to do 100% races with the in-game save feature. Are you on PS3 @jamiefranklinf1?

    1. @Shreyasf1fan – Yeah, I am. This definitely seems like a huge step forward for racing offline.

      1. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
        4th October 2013, 13:49

        @jamiefranklinf1 True. Difficult to get off the game, isn’t it? ;)

  3. Can anyone who has played tell me if you can race the classic cars online with friends in a championship? Also can you race the classic cars on the regular tracks too?

    1. Haven’t played it yet but, based on reviews, I believe the answer is yes to both of your questions.

  4. Got this game last night. It is absolutely fantastic! A real challenge, especially with the sluggish handling at high speeds, and a very sensitive throttle. Got me playing for hours trying to master them. I love it.

  5. As exciting as the classic content us, I can’t help but be disappointed by the circuit choices. Imola is fantastic, and while Brands Hatch was never my favourite circuit, it’s not bad. But Jerez and Estoril? Including them would be like realeasing “F1 2033” with Bahrain and Korea as the classic content instead of, say, Melbourne and Suzuka.

    I can’t help but think that there would be better choices out there instead if Estoril and Jerez – like Kyalami, the Osterreichring and Paul Ricard.

    1. I have to admit, I agree with you about Imola and Estoril.

    2. I was somewhat disappointed to see Estoril when they first announced the content. Personally, I would’ve much preferred the old Hockenheim or Adelaide.

      1. Exactly. Or they could have included Buenos Aires (the 1980s version) or Long Beach or Mexico City. There are a dozen circuits from the 1980s and 1990s that would have been better choices.

  6. Great review Will! I actually thought that the cars felt a little bit heavier in the steering than last year’s edition. I found that the graphics were a marked improvement on last year – simple yet effective, especially the on-screen graphics when driving a Classic car and the intermittent sparks which can come from any car over a bump. As maligned as they are by some, Codemasters deserve a pat on the back for how they went about the Classics mode. It could have been a cheap knock-off of rFactor or something like that, but they wanted to appeal to the hardcore fans. I don’t know about the other Fanatics, but they’ve done enough for me to think its the best F1 game CM has released!

  7. As much as I love F1, I’ve never been able to get into Codemasters’ F1 series. Something about the gameplay always end up feeling a bit off, and I’m not that big of a fan of all the bells and whistles.

    I prefer the Forza series tbh, can’t wait for Forza 5, that game is looking spectacular.

  8. With all sports games that have new versions coming every year, I won’t buy a game two years in a row. I had 2010 version and now bought this one. Haven’t had a time to play it yet, but I will do that later today.

  9. So the most important aspect of an F1 game, the physics and car handling itself, is still overlooked in favor of some gimmicks which although nice, don’t mean much when the core element is lacking in quality.

    1. It’s kind of hard to address your specific criticism when your criticism is not that specific at all. What do you think are the main problems with the handling? How do you think the handling could be improved? What effect do you think this will have on the canvass – both the dedicated fans and the casual gamers?

  10. OK Codemasters, you can take my money.

  11. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
    4th October 2013, 14:30

    @vettel1 Have you powered up your Xbox with F1 ’13 yet? ;)

    1. @shreyasf1fan I’ll probably end up waiting to Christmas – I never play my xbox haha!

      1. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
        4th October 2013, 17:28

        @vettel1 But when you do, you will find how good F1 2013 is! ;)

  12. Great review, can’t wait to race with those classic beauties…but, but…”the woefully limited replay system ” nooo :(, I can’t belive it. That was one of the main things that I was hoping to be upgraded. Still we can’t enjoy and watch what happened to other drivers.

  13. excellent review Will

  14. I’m glad to here this is better than last year. I may have to get it. Great review!

  15. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
    4th October 2013, 15:07

    Just curious, do you play F1 2013 as well @keithcollantine ?

  16. one of the best changes is the steering. it’s way better this year, a lot of times you couldn’t counter oversteer in f1 2012, this year it works brilliantly!

  17. It’s good to see the series continuing, and adding classic tracks and cars is exactly what it needs.

    However, I’ll be holding off or possibly giving this year’s version a miss for a few reasons. Mainly, I didn’t get very much use out of last year’s version, primarily because of the large jumps in difficulty settings (over 6 seconds a lap). I just couldn’t find a setting which was challenging without being impossible. I’ll have to see whether this massive jump in lap times between computer AI difficulty levels has been rectified first.

    And finally, for some reason this year they have followed other producers/distributors and put a premium on the Australian steam store version against what is offered to Europeans and Americans.

    1. I completely agree with the AI point. 2nd hardest was ludicrously easy, but hardest was unbelievable difficult.

      I hear that they have 5 AI difficulty levels in this year, not just 4, so it may have been sorted.

      But I have also seen that the AI still back out 100m before the corner if they are any less than side-by-side, as they did in F1 2012 :(

  18. Michael Brown (@)
    4th October 2013, 18:00

    In the previous Codemasters games, you could cut the first part of Ascari by a massive amount an the game wouldn’t penalize you. Has that been changed this year?

    1. Yes it has, on the inside there is ‘sleeping policemen’, like those at T1. And you get auto slowed down if you cut too much this year.

      1. @hsvdt15 – The auto-slowing down when you use run off was in 2012 as well.

    2. I remember you could cut T2 in Valencia also and win ridicoulosly big from that. But track’s gone anyway, so…

    3. @velodrive You could also completely skip turn 1 of Australia (literally just go right across the grass and gain about 2+ seconds, providing you didn’t overtake anyone)!

  19. Thanks for the excellent in depth review @Willwood, I get the impression that by now its finally the game the first one should have become. I will seriously consider it as a gift for friends now (I myself am still not much of a virtual racing fan)

  20. Great review, I’m going to try to buy it this weekend or sometime later. Just hope there are plenty of classic versions left by the time I make it to the store.

  21. This is a minor complaint, but I wish they’d stop overrating Alonso in qualifying. He is able to get on the front-row frequently so far on mine, but he hasn’t done that since the 2012 British Grand Prix! Call me sad, but when I saw Button or Alonso get pole on any of the previous Codemasters F1 games, I’d sometimes restart the session!

    1. They’re overrating Sauber again aswell. Gutierrez being able to lap over a second quicker than the Force India’s, and put it into 8th consistently, yeah right!

      1. @hsvdt15 That is silly (although he’s got into Q3 twice in a row in reality). Mind so far he’s usually been around 15th-17th on mine. Also, Vergne is nearly always out in Q1 and by some margin which is unrealistic. Things like these annoy me!

  22. I had chance to get through all possible teams except Lotus but I chose going with Marussia when I started. I suffered from one very harsh penalty in first weekend (touched di Resta slightly when he went to overtake me on the fast left-right at Melbourne). I had mostly same feeling as with 2010 that I drive much better when I have car a bit ahead instead of going alone. Finished the first race 18th after starting 21st (qualified last, got 10-place penalty as explained above, however Pic had 20-place penalty for some reason) by beating both Force Indias who had extra pit stops or two (I collided slightly with Sutil when exiting pits), Pic and Grosjean (DNF).

  23. I like this game and all the previous ones a lot!
    But the one thing that should have been solved is this:
    When you fast forward (speed x6 or x30) during a qualifying session, the AI is always (certainly in the first 3 races) about 1-1.5sec slower than when you let the time run at it’s normal pace! It was the case in F1 2012 and it is still the case in f1 2013… Have they actually noticed this? Or did I buy a faulty game 2 years in a row?
    It’s a detail, but It should have been solved this year, real shame!

    Love the game though :-)

    1. Either that or you get beaten by everyone in the last 10 seconds. That’s what happened to me occasionally in the 2011 and 2012 games.

  24. Has anyone simmed their way through a full season yet? The thing that killed it for me was the lack of number changes after the season to reflect WDC & WCC results. If I do the full season, win it, I want the #1!

    Also, what about career progression for the AI? Do you get turnover, or are you stuck with Webber racing as the RBR #2 all the way into his 40’s again?

    1. @spdoyle17 You won’t get the Number 1, nor will you see any AI progression or driver moves in career. But that is entirely to do with the F1 licence having restrictions on that sort of thing – nothing Codemasters can do about it.

  25. Very good article Will.

    As a hardcore F1 fan and a hardcore sim racer I think these titles very much fall into the ‘game’ category, with a focus on graphics and features rather than physics and realism. And I also think this is a great thing for the title and exactly what Codemasters should be doing to appeal to a mass market. The first F12010 had a lot of issues, but on the whole I thought it was a very clever representation of F1 for the casual fan, with lots of informative features and all the fun gameplay elements you would expect of a ‘playstation’ F1 title. F1 2013 looks to be a good step forward over the last version, and a lot of fun!

  26. I still wish that the drivers can switch teams when their contracts end.

  27. So the stupid set up problems remain? I won’t be buying it then. I understand how to set up a car, which is usually very useful in sims as I can usually get a great setup after driving a lap or two to see where changes need to be made. Unfortunately, with f1 2012, it was ttial and error, as it was so far from realistic that I was resorting to max front wing and min rear, just to keep up with the ai. I even had to go to forums to find setups for geometry, as it was so unrealistic, and I just wanted to race, not go into time trial on every track to try every combination of settings to find what works. I found online the strangest setups, thought “surely that wouldn’t work”, tried them, and they were like magic. I wish cm would address what is wrong with their games before adding gimmicks to fool people into buying sub par games. I may buy it when I find a pre owned copy for about $10. (Knowing cm games that will only take a month or two)

  28. 1950s to 1970s cars, tracks, drivers?

  29. adam lydeamore
    6th October 2013, 11:41

    the driving assists for f1 2010 were perfect. then from f1 2011-f1 2013 codemasters decided to fix what wasn’t broken. now f1 games are a load of garbage. I will not be buying another f1 game until they fix what IS broken.

  30. It seems that Codemasters have decided to change very little in the parts that get played more (career, etc.). There is the same empty garage, and slow 2010 model pit stops, and a lack of box stops in qualifying still. It is these details in career mode, and other modes, that can give the game a feeling of new and better.

    I haven’t actually got the game yet but I know enough about it to comment on some more, so I shall:

    The classic cars and tracks seem like another way for Codemasters to make a chunk more money than normal, as other parts of the game are smaller (less tracks and teams), so in order to expand it you have to pay more. That aside, it seems like a fantastic feature. The ability to race on 23 tracks in new and old cars is brilliant.

    But like I said, it is disappointing that little has been done to make small but experience-changing changes in career mode.

    It is worth noting that after watching some videos of Monaco it appears that the first corner collision factor has been reduced a lot, which is good :)

  31. With what I have read about the game, I can’t wait to get it and get on the Classic mode. This review is the best one I’ve seen yet since the game was released.
    I’ve read some that only go on about the minor faults.
    Is the game great with a Wheel and pedals or a Controller??

  32. As a casual gamer playing games to release the stress away from my professional life, buying this game was a huge mistake! I always purchase Need for Speed games but tried something different. Definitely first and last for me and I will advise other casual gamers like myself to stay away instead of wasting goof money and getting heavily frustrated

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