If you are a fan of Formula 1 and also enjoy sim racing, you might struggle to find a good game that truly replicates the real excitement of the sport. This is because Formula 1 has strict licensing rules in place. That said, there are still a few good F1 simulators out there.
The 7 best F1 simulators are:
Although some of the games on this list are not strictly F1 games, we will look into why they still serve as good F1 simulators. Some mods are required for a few of them, so we will go into more detail of what the games involve. But first, let’s look at what makes a good F1 simulator.
As with any racing game, there are a few key things to look for in an F1 simulator. The first of these is the number of cars and tracks available. Due to licensing rules in place, there is often a lack to choose from, even with mods. However, a good F1 simulator will have plenty of options.
You need to decide if you want to opt for an F1 licensed game, as these will be the only ones that have true replications of the cars you’d see on the track in real life. The non-F1 licensed games on our list have re-modelled versions of the cars, often based on a stock design. However, they do usually have the same selection of tracks.
The driving physics of any racing game are important if you want to feel like you are really on the track. Good driving physics will allow you to control the car in a predictable manner, and they will make it easier to improve at the game as well.
Good driving physics are important, but they are even more important when it comes to equipment compatibility. A good F1 sim will be compatible with most sim racing rigs, because getting the full F1 experience means you need to be able to use your wheel and pedal setup. This is key across all sims, but F1 races particularly require a lot of fine control.
If you want the ultimate F1 racing experience, then choosing one of Codemasters’ officially licensed F1 games is your best option. However, if realism in the racing and driving physics is a must for you, then you likely need to go for something like iRacing or the mods in Assetto Corsa.
The sound effects and graphics also need to be excellent in an F1 simulator. F1 is one of the loudest sports on the planet. The roar of the engines is a constant noise throughout every race, so if it doesn’t sound quite right, it can often make the game unplayable.
You also want the game to look good. When you are traveling at speeds of 200+ mph, it can be easy for things to get a little blurry. A good F1 simulator will have excellent graphics that remain clear at every speed. These include how the cars, the tracks, and the surrounding environments look. Every part of the experience is important to consider.
Finally, a racing game’s playability is very important. This includes things like the number of game modes you can play. You might be looking for nothing but time trials to see how fast you can go around your favorite track, or you might want a more extensive career mode with Grands Prix and built-in progression.
Sound, graphics, and playability are important when considering which F1 simulator is the best, but you also have to consider how F1 sims differ from other racing games. As stated before, good F1 simulators can be hard to come by, because of the relatively strict licensing of its cars and, in some cases, tracks.
In order to get around these licensing rules, some games have left it up to the community to create mods and other additional content. This is why some games can have no formula-type racing in them natively, but still perform as reasonable F1 simulators when you have the right add-ons.
This can make F1 simulators less accessible to the mass market and can limit some of the games to PC users. However, F1 games can provide a unique racing experience that is unlike anything else. The speed and excitement involved at every corner sets F1 simulators apart from a lot of other different types of racing games. So, which ones are the best?
Platform: PC/Xbox/PlayStation | Released: 2022
We start our list with the most recent iteration from Codemasters, with their F1 2022 game. This game follows the typical format a lot of the F1 games, this time taking on the updated cars that made their debut at the start of the 2022 season. These cars look very different to the previous generations, and so they also handle quite differently too.
Importantly for diehard F1 fans, the 2022 F1 game features updated tracks, including the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the Albert Park Circuit, and the Yas Marina Circuit, all of which received modifications within the last year or so. Of course, there is also the brand-new Miami International Autodrome to race on as well.
Alongside the updated tracks, the 2022 F1 game features Sprint races, which made their first appearance in the 2021 F1 season. This adds a new dynamic to the race weekends, alongside your usual practice and qualifying sessions, and this sets it apart from previous iterations of the game.
An interesting addition, although perhaps not terribly important for many fans, is the F1 Life aspect of the game. This allows you to collect cars, clothing and various other accessories in order to give your character more of a lifestyle in the game that would (supposedly) match the lifestyle of the real drivers.
Aside from this rather trivial addition, you get the traditional My Team, career mode, and multiplayer options that will keep you racing for hours. The game even supports VR if you’re racing on PC, which allows you to really get inside the cockpit of an F1 car for unmatched immersion.
The physics and actual driving experience is fairly realistic, although clearly it doesn’t compete with the likes of iRacing and other true racing simulators. However, if you want the best F1 experience as a whole, from the cars to the race weekend structures, F1 2022 is the game to buy.
- Fully licensed 2022 F1 cars
- Immersive F1 racing experience
- Multiple game modes to choose from
- Handling physics don’t match those of some other racing simulators
- Absence of classic cars
2. F1 2021
Platform: PC/Xbox/PlayStation | Released: 2021
F1 2021 is another officially licensed game from Codemasters. This was perhaps the most expansive F1 game that they had brought out at the time. Aside from the fully licensed cars and tracks, there are other features that make it an excellent F1 simulator.
This game features fully licensed F1 cars from 2021, and it offers a realistic single seater racing experience. There are lots of game modes to enjoy, and the graphics are great too.
The range of game modes in F1 2021 is one of its selling points, as it even features Formula 2 racing for those that fancy a different kind of challenge. The Braking Point game mode marks the return of narrative-driven story gameplay. Of course, multiplayer mode exists too, so you can enjoy it with your friends. The game also offers a career mode and time trials.
Playability And Accessibility
As far as cars go, there aren’t as many to choose from as in previous F1 games. This is due to the absence of classic cars, but the standard team cars that are in the game look and feel excellent to drive. The sounds in the game will make you feel like you are really on the track, and when combined with the high-quality graphics, it makes for a truly immersive sim racing experience.
F1 2021 is available on the three major platforms, so it is highly accessible. It is also compatible with the biggest brands of sim racing equipment, which means you can use your sim racing rig to really feel like you are sitting in an F1 car. However, it is always worth double checking if your particular setup is compatible with the game.
Diving more into the realism aspect of F1 2021, there are some solid driving physics to enjoy, with handling and damage much improved upon previous generations. The force feedback can be tuned to make it feel even more lifelike, and when this is paired with the high-quality graphics and sounds, it really becomes a great simulator.
F1 2021 was made for next-gen consoles, but it can be played on PS4 and Xbox One too. The competition that is built into the game makes for even more added realism. If you are looking for an experience that truly emulates the real thing, and aren’t fussed about paying top dollar for the latest iteration, F1 2021 is a good choice.
- Plenty of realism
- Another fully-licensed F1 game
- Extensive gameplay options
- May feel too similar to some past titles
- Lack of classic cars
- No 2022 F1 cars
Platform: PC | Released: 2008 (still updated)
iRacing is one of the most popular racing simulators on the market, due to its ability to recreate the racing experience at a very detailed level. It was originally released well over a decade ago, but it has seen multiple regular updates since then to keep it a modern racing sim. While iRacing isn’t a true F1 simulator, it does offer Formula racing.
Graphics, Sounds & Realism
The graphics and sound of the Formula class in iRacing are great, but the real selling point of this sim is the realism of the driving physics. iRacing is the favored racing simulator of real F1 drivers, with stars like Lando Norris and Max Verstappen preferring it to the fully licensed F1 games. The detailed force feedback makes for lifelike handling, which is key to look for in an F1 sim.
The realism of iRacing can sometimes be hard to experience. The game’s subscription-based structure often makes it difficult to find competitions to enter for the F1 genre. However, there is a reasonable selection of open-wheel cars to try, making way for plenty of realistic formula racing when you get the chance. Overall, iRacing is perhaps the most realistic F1 simulator in terms of the physics.
- Very realistic driving physics
- Highly detailed racing experience
- Good selection of open wheel cars
- Not dedicated to F1 racing
- Can be hard to find suitable competitions to enter
Platform: PC/Xbox/PlayStation | Released: 2014
Assetto Corsa takes the fourth spot on our list, and this is the first game that you will need to use mods in order to get the best F1 experience. Mods are fairly common in PC sim racing. So, while this won’t be as accessible for console players (more on why in a moment), you can download some very realistic F1 mods for Assetto Corsa.
The Potential Of Modding
While there are some formula cars available in the game either when you buy it or by buying DLC, the way you’ll be able to unlock the true F1 potential in Assetto Corsa is through modding. There are plenty of different mods out there for Assetto Corsa, and many of them are free.
One of these mod options is the Formula Hybrid X 2022 mod, which is relatively cheap and gives you access to a representation of a 2022 F1 car. It’s a fairly close representation of the real thing, but as it is not fully licensed it clearly won’t be exactly the same.
There are plenty of mods out there for the 2022 F1 car, along with even more from past generations of F1 cars, and so provided you are happy with downloading mods to your game, this is one of the best ways to experience F1 in a racing simulator.
Excellent Handling Model
Assetto Corsa’s handling model is one of the best out there for sim racers. While the likes of rFactor 2 and iRacing are gold standards, Assetto Corsa is generally still thought of as one of the best, and so with the variety of mods out there to install, you can not only get a very realistic handling model for an F1 car, but you’ll also get a wide range of car models to choose from.
Alongside some classic F1 cars like those from the likes of Lotus, the game also comes with or offers DLC for a range of other formula series cars. These include models like the Ferrari F2004 and the SF15-T. This means that, while console players can’t get the full Assetto Corsa F1 experience, there is definitely still some good formula racing to enjoy.
- Decent selection of formula cars available
- Potential for modding allows for lots of car models
- Excellent handling model
- Need mods to get the best experience
- Can only be modded on PC
5. F1 2019
Platform: PC/Xbox/PlayStation | Released: 2019
In at number five we have the 2019 iteration of the F1 series from Codemasters. It should be no surprise that this list of the best F1 simulators contains three games from Codemasters, as these are the only ones that are fully licensed by F1 itself. The 2019 edition offers some interesting features that set it apart from even some of the later iterations of the game.
While not the newest iteration of the F1 series, this game features some unique game modes that set it apart, primarily the career mode. You also get a brilliant gameplay experience and plenty of classic cars to race as well.
Decent Driving Physics
While the game is a few years old now, and so the cars used are now out of date, F1 2019 still offers a very fun F1 racing experience with fairly realistic driving physics. Clearly it will struggle to keep up with even the newer iterations of the game, never mind iRacing and Assetto Corsa, but it’s definitely good enough for most F1 fans that just want to experience the thrill of racing at 200 mph for themselves.
The game features lots of cars, including obviously the 2019 F1 cars themselves, but also cars from seasons all the way back to 1972. There is some DLC available as well if you want to check out some more specific historical cars, but there are plenty of cars in the base game to keep you going.
F1 2019 offers some cool features like driver transfers that will happen mid-season, along with the ability to design liveries for your team. There are also some F2 scenarios in career mode, which feature the two fictional drivers Lukas Weber and Devon Butler, who both reach F1 alongside you as the player and create an interesting dynamic as you progress through your career.
Considering the age of the game, it does still look excellent. One thing that may lack as a result of being released in 2019 is the multiplayer game mode. While it exists, there are bound to be far more players on the newer iterations of the game, and so if multiplayer F1 racing is an essential thing you’re looking for, we suggest opting for F1 2022 instead.
- Great selection of cars
- Looks and sounds great
- Fun career mode
- Now a bit dated
- Multiplayer races can be hard to find
- Handling physics are beaten by newer F1 games
6. Project Cars 2
Platform: PC/Xbox/PlayStation | Released: 2017
Project Cars 2 has plenty of different racing options to choose from, and it has its own Formula racing mode. Although not licensed in the same way F1 2022 is, it makes use of its own equivalent that it calls “Formula A.” The Formula A cars are based off of the real 2011 F1 models. While not quite up to date, Formula A offers a realistic take on the world’s fastest motorsport.
High Level Of Realism
Project Cars 2 is one of the best, most realistic racing simulators out there for console players. This realism is included in the Formula game mode as well. You can experience realistic track dynamics with its LiveTrack 3.0 feature, which allows the track to evolve as you race. This changes the racing surface, just like it would change in real life.
Things like track temperature and weather also affect the racing surface, which are aspects that have to be considered in real life as well. These features combine well with the large range of customization options in the game that can allow you to have even more control over your racing experience.
Although the F1 car selection is quite limited when compared to Codemasters’ F1 games, there are still several to choose from. The fictional Formula A cars handle like the real F1 cars, and there is a 2015 Formula Renault car that you can use as well. If you can get past the lack of licensing, Project Cars 2 can serve as a very good F1 simulator.
- Realistic driving physics
- Lots of customization
- Works well with sim racing rigs
- Lack of licensed cars
- Not specifically an F1 simulator
Platform: PC | Released: 2020
Automobilista 2 is a racing game that is exclusively available on Steam. While not actually a Formula 1 racing simulator, it has the ability to be modded to include real cars and tracks, but a version of the Formula Ultimate car was added to the game to look and behave like the 2022 F1 car.
Decent Level Of Realism
Automobilista 2 offers some decent track dynamism. This can help to make it feel more realistic, since Formula 1 racing involves some of the most intense racing situations. There is also a lot of attention paid to individual details in the racing surface.
Although the game features several Formula cars from different eras, it lacks many modern counterparts that help to reflect what the real thing is like now. However, there are lots of mods available that allow you to enhance the capabilities of the game and make the most of the active community that is passionate about F1 racing.
The Formula Ultimate Gen 2 car is also a decent representation of the 2022 F1 car. We’ve included this game on our list because, while limited in selection, the cars you can use through either the formula racing built into the game or via modding can combine well with the driving physics to make a very fun and fairly realistic F1 simulator.
- Reasonable driving physics and track dynamics
- Can implement mods for more recent cars and tracks
- Recently added 2022-style F1 car
- Not licensed for modern F1 cars
- Not dedicated to F1 racing
F1 2022 is the best F1 simulator, but iRacing provides a realistic F1 racing experience outside the F1 series. For PC gamers, Assetto Corsa and Automobilista can be modded to create F1 racing conditions.
On console, Project Cars 2 has Formula-style racing, which may be enough to satisfy your F1 racing desires. But if you want the full selection of licensed F1 cars and tracks, F1 2022 is the one to go for.
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