F1 24 screenshot

F1 24 director Lee Mather on physics, in-race goals and revamped career mode

Simracing

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Ever since Codemasters were handed the keys to produce the officially-licenced Formula 1 game in the late 2000s, Lee Mather has been heavily involved in bringing each of the 14 annual titles to life.

Now as senior creative director of the series, Mather is the one who holds the greatest influence over the direction of one of the most popular and successful annual sports game franchises on the planet.

It’s been two years since RaceFans last caught up with Mather to discuss an upcoming of an F1 game, but with F1 2024 set to be released at the very end of the month, what better time is there to catch up with the game’s director?

In the first of this two-part interview, Mather shares his views on why the changes to this year’s game will make it a must-play, even for long time veterans of the series.

Under the hood

With every new grand prix season comes a new F1 game. A game that will naturally feature all of the cars, drivers and circuits of the current championship. But 2024 is an unusual year where all the same drivers are racing with the same teams as last year, with the only new circuit – Shanghai – already being featured in F1 2023. So does having a season like 2024 with such little variance from the previous year make life easier or harder for Mather and his team?

“It’s a mixture,” he says. “We’ve had seasons before where there’s been very limited change. We gain extra boost when there’s significant changes in a season. But ultimately we still try to make sure that the game differentiates itself year-on-year significantly, no matter what the season is doing.

“If the season does something really crazy, like we’re going to see in ’25 with Lewis Hamiltongoing to Ferrari, then that’s like just a significant boost and sort of the cherry on the top of the cake, really. We’ve already set out to make sure that the game that players get this year will be significantly moved on from what we did last year. The sport giving us something fresh and different – new tracks, new drivers, different teams, obviously Audi coming in in the future – is another big key point for us in the future. So we set out to try and ensure that we will always hit that goal of giving players something fresh and new every year. And the sport can sometimes give us a leg up on that.”

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Without any major changes to the teams, cars, circuits or regulations for 2024, the main focus for the upcoming release has been on something more fundamental – handling. While not a hardcore simulation game to the level of iRacing or Assetto Corsa Competizione, Codemasters’ F1 series has always tried to provide a level of authenticity that strikes a balance with accessibility.

F1 24 screenshot
Anti-squat and anti-dive suspension is now modelled
For 2024, subtle adjustments have been made to the handling and physics model to add more depth to the driving experience and provide more realistic and predictable behaviour for players. Suspension, tyre and aerodynamic models have all been changed for this year, with Mather explaining that the amount of work done to adjust the physics has been more substantial than many might assume.

“As with any physics change, the knock-on effects are normally significant,” he explains. “You have, essentially, a physics model where things have to work together effectively. It’s almost like a house of cards – if you pull one card out, things come tumbling down.

“Obviously everything’s been built over the years to work together, but we wanted to make some significant changes to some key areas and they have a big knock-on. First it was in the suspension. Originally our suspension worked effectively but didn’t actually model some of the more advanced properties, so we couldn’t really build in things like the anti-squat and the anti-dive under braking because we didn’t have those geometry impacts on the suspension. So we’re now able to model that more accurately to what we see in the real cars. That instantly gives a better feeling of attachment to the road.

“That obviously means that we have to do things with the tyres as well, because the contact patch is going to be working differently. So we wanted to try and not only give that more feeling, but also to make it more realistic. The way that the tyre temperatures behave will be more aligned with what we see in the data from the sport.

“We then did significant work on the aero model as well, which, again, plays very heavily into the suspension and of course the underbody aero as well. So it’s a case of if you got to make one change, you’re generally going to have to make two, three or four more to bring those things in line. Otherwise, you won’t see the benefit of one of the other changes.

“At its core, the suspension kinematics was probably one of the largest. And then once all that tech’s in, it’s in the balancing as well. In actually getting the values set up correctly to build those cars. Our tech could build any type of car, but obviously we’re building a Formula 1 car, so it’s using that technology to build the most effective model.”

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Striking a balance

With so much being changed on the handling side, how long does the game’s director expect it will take for players to get up to speed with the subtle adjustments to the game’s physics? Will new or lower-level players be overwhelmed?

“Making a model that’s deeper, doesn’t necessarily make it more difficult,” Mather insists.

“In theory, we’re building a model that’s more relatable. That’s important. I think if it’s more relatable, it actually makes it easier in some ways. It allows us then to build depth into that model.

“Obviously we see F1 drivers can literally cook breakfast while they’re driving a car – they’ve got such immense brain capacity. Players obviously have distractions, things going on around them as well – you can’t always concentrate 100%. We have things in the game that can help with that. So if you just want to purely drive the car, or you’re doing shorter race distances, tyre temperature and tyre wear don’t really come into a short race distance. Strategy isn’t a big part of it. It’s purely about the fun of driving and racing the cars.

“If you want assistance with the ERS management, we have auto-ERS. We have auto-DRS triggering. Again, bringing it down for the player who just wants to drive the most awesome car in the world and not have to take on the intricacies, the game will allow that. And then of course the assists as well go a long way to helping. I think in terms of getting to grips with things, if you’re the kind of player who plays with ABS, traction control on, for example, you’ll be able to play straight away. It’s comfortable, it’ll be accessible, you’ll be able to play the game using those assists.”

But for players who turn the assists off and crank the difficulty up, Mather is confident it won’t take long for experienced players to get to grips with the handling changes

“If you want to turn assists off, I think for somebody who’s already experienced in racing games or in a Formula 1 game – myself, I don’t play with assists on pad or on wheel, I could jump straight in and within a few laps I’ve got a feel for what’s changed,” he says.

“I’m starting to get to grips with it. I’m not doing the lap times anything like I would have done previously, but that’s where the learning curve comes in. You don’t want people to come in and go ‘wow, this is completely different,’ or really difficult. You want players to come in and go ‘actually, I appreciate this challenge of getting to grips with these changes,’ and then starting to find where the tenths come.

“I think especially in a Formula 1 game, I think that’s one of the most important things – you want to feel like you’re a Formula 1 driver when you’re driving a Formula 1 car. You don’t want to feel like you’re a mere mortal who can’t drive a Formula 1 car. But then you want to be that person starting to find those smaller gains and starting to improve.”

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Setting targets

Beyond the revised handling, Codemasters and publishers EA have already detailed new elements to driver career mode in F1 24. As well as revised and expanded car research and development and contract negotiation systems, Mather says there are also new on-track features for players to contend with in the upcoming game, particularly those who prefer to tackle longer races.

F1 24 screenshot
Players will be given extra in-race goals
“This year to try and help with the longer race distances and enrich the experience on track, we have the race engineer as well who now gives out in-race objectives,” he explains.

“These are short-term focussed goals within a race. They’re like a gamified version of what a race engineer does in real life. They give short-term motivational goals to a driver. They give them information that can help them to continue to push, or to maybe ease off a little, or to target a specific goal during the race. We have a number of things that will cater to the player who wants a short, fun, F1 driving experience all the way up players running 100% race distance, worried about tyre temperatures, worried about tyre wear and those things.”

But there’s an obvious concern with a system like this; how does it decide what targets to set you? Will a player racing in a midfield car be told to try and ‘overtake Max Verstappen within three laps’ if the only reason they are close to the Red Bull driver on the track is because Verstappen has pitted early while the player is still on their starting tyres?

“That’s actually one of the most important things about it,” Mather stresses.

“This is something we’ve always spoken about from the very beginning, from 2010 onwards. You don’t often know who you’re racing. In a long race, it’s incredibly easy to lose sight of that. And that’s where we want to make the player aware that they don’t need to be racing every car around them because that might not be the race that they’re having once things work out. So that’s definitely something that the system takes into account.

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“It’s also more reactive to some of the things that happens to the car as well. We have a number of other systems – tyre wear, engine temperature and engine wear – so it might be that you’ve followed a car for four or five laps in the dirty air and your engine temperatures have gone up. So we’ll set you a goal to bring the engine temperatures down over the next few laps and that will stabilise. Because ultimately, not only are you losing performance because the hotter the engine, the way the performance is knocked, but also it’s increasing wear as well. Which, of course, if you’re playing in career, that’s something that you want to be cautious of.

“So they’re structured in such a way that they will help with where you are in the big scheme of things. It could be that you’re on a totally different strategy to everybody else and you feel like you’re on your own in the race, you’ll be given some motivational targets which will be relevant to your position in the race. It won’t be ‘go out there and overtake Max and take the lead when you’re on 20 lap worn tyres’, for example.”

While the career mode is extremely popular, so too is MyTeam, first introduced in 2020. Mather says the beloved create-a-team mode will be receiving some “refinements” for 2024, rather than a major overhaul.

“We’ve put all of the effort into literally building that new driver career from the ground up,” he continues. “MyTeam will be generally just in the balancing. It’s gained some of the smaller elements, but there’s nothing of significance that comes over from driver career into MyTeam. They’re very different experiences and different modes.”

Read the final part of RaceFans’ interview with Lee Mather tomorrow which covers the changes to Podium Pass, leaving last-generation consoles behind and what 2026 means for the future of the franchise.

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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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6 comments on “F1 24 director Lee Mather on physics, in-race goals and revamped career mode”

  1. Still no triple screen support.

  2. They looked too greedy long before the real F1 found its extremes in this regard. What a terrible project, the same game that comes out each year with the same fundamental flaws. A waste of an interesting license. They should really reserve another license for one of the actual attempted sims, and this one can still be there for the kids and casual players willing to pay every year plus micro transactions for the same arcade.

  3. Yeah…. no thanks. I’ve played enough EA games to know that a “revamped career mode” means it’ll be the exact same career mode with a couple of minor tweaks that don’t really affect anything. There are obviously plenty of games that offer a better driving experience so it’s the little things that make this worth playing and with EA in charge, I know they won’t bother.

  4. On very much a side note; a couple of years ago on a Will review I bemoaned the inability to sell cars in GT7 (at the time) because I wasn’t interested in these cars. As of a few months ago, I’d bought every car (I think 500 with latest patch) without using any in game currency.

    It must have been a grind, and over PS4 & 5 so I’d have to boot up the old system to get the overall hours (I hate to think). But the game clearly scratched an itch. Every car, tune, the ability on console to have Prost / Pepsi as a livery. Kimi driving a Mustang, online Rallycross chaos. I use it to unwind, try something silly. Races where I stretch ‘lift and coast’ in the hope of landing 4th but end up in a scrap for 1st.

    In that time I’ll have owned each F1 title, booted up a career, started in F2 but by the time I’m in my second or third season grown weary of wet tyres / red flag glitches we’re you’re forced to restart on 89% worn rubber, when you were on 20% before the stoppage.

    I’m not a sim racer, and I’d love to embrace F1 without having to schedule several hours of my day dialling setups in. But these F1 games feel very ‘flat’ and because of that, when they glitch, you’re inclined to be less forgiving.

    I’m probably pretty common for an F1 fan. I don’t have the space, time or money for a full sim. But somewhere I found more time for GT7 than I’ve found for any F1 game of recent times. I’m way more interested in F1 cars than I am in Citroëns and VWs, but they’re what i want to drive when I boot up.

    1. Similar to you, but found myself playing DiRT Rally in old Escorts over and over.They remind me of my first cars, growing up in rural South Australia sliding around on dirt back roads. I have a mid-level sim with a clutch and manual shifter—it feels familiar, authentic, and I can actually properly drive the old RWD cars. Struggle hard with the high-powered AWDs and can’t figure out the FWDs to save me (I know what I need to do, but my instincts are hard-wired for RWD, can’t seem to override them). But the old RWDs are just so much damn fun! Hours on end of the same tracks over and over with a smile on my face.

  5. It’s nice to see he mentioned playing on a pad too, i think sometimes with the racing games they (game designers) all think we have the room (not to mention money) to have a rig setup. It’s something i’ve found on GT7 having to brake and steer all in one hand while bending the throttle ain’t easy on a pad but you’re given the same target time. It’s doable but it takes the time to learn how to do it and having a good physics modelling helps with that.

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