Formula 1 must hate itself. Onlookers regularly praise its status as the leading form of motorsport, and F1 smiles politely before thanking them gracefully, but deep down the resentment churns at 19,000RPM. Unable to contain it within, it eventually spews out of a white-hot exhaust and gets dragged into the 200mph swirl of a (double) diffuser.
But regardless of whether there is a sport more intent on self-destruction through silly internal politics than the pinnacle of car racing, the drivers have - this year in particular - tried hard to remind those interested that the focus should remain on the cars racing around the track.
The 2009 season has, for reasons we won’t get into here, thrown up a few unusual scenarios along with a major shift in the balance of power - arguably the biggest in decades - resulting in a reinvigorated F1 championship.
What better time, then, to get in on the F1 game act. Codemasters secured pole position on that one, signing the rights to the Formula 1 circus in May 2008. A year on, it’s ready to talk specifics as the game approaches its autumn launch.
Development on the PSP version of F1 2009 is currently in the turbulent slipstream of the Wii game and so lagging a little behind, but both interpretations share the same content. Oh, with the exception that on PSP you get the addition of a four-player wireless option for those Button versus Vettel versus Alonso versus Hamilton moments (although a cooperative option for two team-mates is also included).
Obviously all 17 races are present, along with all ten teams, 20 current drivers and current regulations - that’s slick tyres, KERS, etc - and you have full weekend options complete with all practice and qualifying sessions, as well as race-specific elements such as pit strategy.
The main mode, meanwhile, offers a three-season career either as a named driver (in which case you’re stuck to the team they’re contracted to) or yourself (giving you the ability to switch teams). Further boosting the play time are the challenges, ranging from time trials to overtaking to scenario-based excursions (such as securing a specific position with only a set number of laps remaining).
Then there's changeable weather, pit crew communication (no commentary sounds disappointing until you remember BBC F1 commentator Jonathan Legard's irritating habit of interrupting colleague Martin Brundle's infinitely more informative contributions), and the inclusion of a functional damage system.
The AI, like all areas, is still being worked on but Codemasters is promising driver behaviour that is both reactive and convincing (similar to that found in console title Race Driver: GRID, for those who've experienced it), but also reflective of the current F1 talent. So expect Nelson Piquet Jr to show an unhealthy obsession with gravel.
And if you want to get your hands dirty, there should be plenty of opportunity for tweaking beneath the carbon fibre. Overall balance, gear ratios, tyre compounds, geometry settings, ride height, suspension loads and more offer the road on which the quest for that magic tenth of a second travels.
Don’t be put off if that all sounds a little too serious, though, as Codemasters has promised as broad an appeal as possible for its first officially licensed F1 effort. With a few button presses you can be out on track, the driver aids working hard to keep you on it (although, pleasingly, the game’s skill balancing system not only suggests the addition of spin recovery, traction control, predictive braking, racing line and so on, but it also highlights the moment you appear ready to switch them off).
The one crucial area we’ve yet to experience is the handling. It’s not an element developer Sumo Digital has previously got wrong on handheld (and, for what it’s worth, a test drive of the Wii version suggests things are in very good hands) so we remain confident this part of the equation will be as accomplished as the rest of the package. We’ll let you know when we go hands-on with F1 2009 PSP in the near future.
In the meantime, enjoy the Mosley and FOTA show.