As Formula One celebrates its 70th year, F1 2020 arrives this month to give budding armchair racers their speedy kicks. STACK spoke with Codemasters’ F1 franchise game director Lee Mather to find out more about what’s hitting the track this year.

2020 has been an odd year so far for everybody, and sport in particular has been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Luckily, it didn’t have much impact on the virtual game’s development.

“Thankfully the transition to working from home went incredibly smoothly for us,” says Mather. “We started to put things in place quite early, with the expectation that it would happen. It did all happen a little quicker than expected, but staff were home and working effectively within a day.”

The virus actually aided in more exposure for the official Codemasters franchise, with regular Virtual Grand Prix races using F1 2019, and it had a beneficial knock-on effect.

“It’s been great to see F1 2019 being used for the VGPs this year, and even more so to have so many official Formula 1 drivers entering the events,” enthuses Mather. “With the drivers having a little extra time on their hands, we’ve had unprecedented access to a wealth of knowledge. We’ve also had similar from the technical departments of some of the teams. In order to compete in the VGP events, they’ve been running the practice sessions as they do in real life to a degree. Because of this, we’ve received more detailed feedback than ever before, which has supported our direction for the handling in-game this year, as well as making some great suggestions for the future of the series.”

“It’s been great to see F1 2019 being used for the VGPs this year, and even more so to have so many official Formula 1 drivers entering the events.”

One new feature in F1 2020 is the ‘My Team’ mode, and Mather is excited about it.

“My Team is something we’ve worked towards since we started developing F1 titles back with F1 2010,” Mather tells us. “The concept is that you are not only a driver, but also the team owner and manager of your own F1 team, making you the eleventh team on the grid. You’ll create your team, then race against all the official F1 teams, fighting to take the drivers and constructors titles.”

Along with new features such as My Team and the much-anticipated return of split-screen play, two new circuits – the Netherlands’ Zandvoort and Vietnam’s Hanoi – enter the F1 2020 fray. So, how do the Codemasters team go about reproducing them faithfully?

“We’re very used to creating circuits which don’t exist in the real world or are still undergoing development,” explains Mather. “For Zandvoort we received LiDAR data which allowed us to get a great head start. As modifications happened to the track, we were provided with additional reference data to help us represent the changes in-game. Hanoi proved a different challenge, as the geography of the region existed, but the layout of the circuit was still being decided. Because of that, we started out building the region, which is key to such a visually striking street circuit and then adjusted the actual route as it was confirmed.”

Like its predecessors, F1 2020 leans more towards simulation rather than arcade play, however steps have been taken to open the game up to more novice players.

“I’m excited to see how people engage with the new levels of accessibility which we’ve added to the game – the option of a steering assist, easier to drive on off-track surfaces, and an option to automatically reset to track if you have an incident – and the new split-screen GP mode. Both of those should really hit the mark with the more casual fans, and those who love F1 but find the game a little too challenging or daunting to get into.”

F1 2020 releases on July 10 for PS4 and Xbox One – but you can get racing three days earlier with the limited Deluxe Schumacher Edition. Sign up now at JB Hi-Fi.