F1 2020: Controller vs Wheel (Which Should You Use?)

No matter what level of sim racing experience you now have, we all started out playing racing games on controllers. But as you progress as a sim racer, you usually move on to a wheel setup. Some games work better than others on controller, and F1 2020 is one that is hotly debated.

F1 2020 is fairly balanced when it comes to controllers vs wheels, and it all comes down to the individual’s skill level. If you have limited experience with sim racing, a controller might be the way to go, but a wheel will provide more fun and realism if you can afford it.

No matter which one you prefer using, it is worth looking at the different sides of the argument anyway. It could be useful to know if you are a controller player and are unsure whether a wheel is worth it, so let’s take a look at the differences between using a wheel versus a controller.

The Controller vs Wheel Debate

Within the world of sim racing, there has long been a debate about whether to use a controller or a wheel. While the controller is what comes first for many, wheels and pedals are natural upgrade paths for those that want to experience more realism. But the debate around which is faster is still common, regardless of realism.

Realism vs Ease

While the controller is cheaper and easier to use than a wheel, the latter provides the realism that most high-level sim racers expect to use. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be a fast sim racer if you don’t use a wheel. In fact, in many cases those using controllers may find an advantage over those on wheels.

It all comes down to the skill level of the person playing. If you have been playing on controllers all your life, you are probably going to find that much easier to use than a wheel. With lots of practice, you will be able to take on any sim racing game you come across with ease, battling with the very best using sim rigs.

All About Skill

However, if you learn to use a sim racing wheel, and put in the time and effort, you can also get to a very high level. Arguments aside, if you have the skill with either one, you will be able to win races. So, when it comes to speed, the debate usually only proceeds when you consider specific games, as someone that is amazing on a controller can be just as quick as someone on a wheel in most cases.

However, when it comes to competition racing, esports tend to enforce one or the other, with many of the top events using a standardized system where everyone uses the exact same setup. This keeps everyone on a level playing field and is the ultimate test of skill as nobody is using better equipment than anyone else.


For example, the NASCAR esports events use a standardized wheel system, but the Forza esports events, named Forza RC, actually use controllers for their main events. Others may use a mix for qualifiers but change things around for the finals, and so it really does vary by game and by competition.

So, no matter which one you prefer, or which one you think requires more skill or lets you go faster, it all depends on the skill of the person using it.

Some Examples Of Other Games

Arcade Racers

When discussing the debate between using a wheel versus using a controller, it is useful to consider which games benefit most from using one or the other. The first of these games would be anything that falls into the arcade racer category. These are games like Forza Horizon 4 or The Crew 2, along with the Need For Speed series.

These are games where the focus is not always on the racing, and it is often about missions or progressing in a career style mode. Thus, the detail is often in the story or the environments, and less detail appears in the car mechanics or racing physics. This means these games are suited more to controllers than wheels, and they are often not even compatible with wheels.


More simcade racers and simulators fall into the same category however, in that they are generally more suited to those with wheels for the immersion side of things, but they are still very playable with controllers. For example, Gran Turismo and Project Cars are two series that put a lot of focus on realism, but still allow those on controllers to have fun and race well.

Obviously as you get to games like rFactor and iRacing you are looking at games designed to offer maximum realism, and so these are not suited to controller players. Instead, the focus on things like realistic driving physics and responsive force feedback are the aim with these games, so you lose a lot of the playability with a controller.

So, deciding which input to use really comes down to the game you are playing and your skill and experience level with each. But what about F1 2020 in particular?

Which Is Best For F1 2020?

A lot of players found that in F1 2019, controllers appeared to have the advantage over wheels in terms of raw speed. However, as we noted in the previous sections, no matter what game you are playing it all comes down to the skill level of the player. Someone that is highly skilled on a controller is always going to be able to race on par with someone equally as good on a wheel.

Seems More Balanced

However, there are a few things to look at when comparing the two that will make your own decision easier when it comes to which one is best for you. Fans of F1 2020 post on forums just as much as they did about F1 2019 regarding the wheel and controller debate, and while the general consensus seems to be that things are more balanced this time, it’s worth taking a more in depth look at things.

The first thing to consider is the number of buttons on a controller versus the number of buttons on an average wheel. F1 2020, and indeed its predecessors, offer a lot of customization when it comes to mapping buttons to specific things like brake biases, fuel mixes and differential changes.

Running Out Of Buttons

Having a high-end wheel with lots of mappable buttons can make life easier here, and this is where controllers often lose out, as they just simply do not have enough buttons. Add in the fact that two of them will be taken up by manual gear changing, and you are left with only a few buttons to use to change things around.

This means a controller can also require a bit more dexterity on the part of the player to be able to use all of these buttons effectively, while a wheel is more about hand-eye coordination and sheer ability. So, both test different things that’s for sure, but you also need to consider which camera to use, as a cockpit camera will usually be much harder to get used to with a controller.

Camera Choice

While you can match your movements with a wheel quite easily with those that occur in the game using the cockpit or TV pod camera, you may be more comfortable using the chase camera views at first when using a controller. This will only really be true for those new to sim racing, as many experienced racers will even use the cockpit camera with a controller and perform well.

But aside from issues of personal preference, there are some more objective things to consider for F1 2020 in particular. Many notice that, on a controller, you can be more aggressive into the corners, with the correction of mistakes taking much less input and the game being quite forgiving in that sense. However, you lose the ability to throw the car into the corners in the process.

The reason for this is due to some in-game damping and smoothing on a controller setup. These are settings you don’t seem to be able to change, and they basically mean your turns will be slightly smoother than on a wheel.

Driving Styles

On a wheel on the other hand, there is no automatic damping, which means you can throw the car into chicanes as much as you can handle. While smoother turning on a controller is handy on large, sweeping corners, chicanes will be a bit tougher if you want to be more aggressive, and this is where a wheel offers a bit more flexibility in driving style.

A wheel will thus give you a bit more control over your car, and this can have implications in the form of reduced tire wear. While this effect might be small for most racers, it could have larger implications for others.

More Realistic

Finally, a wheel will also just offer you far more realism. If you can afford to get a wheel setup, you will be able to get more out of the racing experience, but if you can’t a controller will definitely still be fun to use, and with practice you will be able to take on the greats on both devices.

Final Thoughts

F1 2020 does a good job of balancing the experience for those on controllers and those on racing wheels. While the latter obviously offers more realism, the former is more accessible and can still allow you to set fast lap times. As always, it will come down to your own individual preferences and of course your skill level.

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