At the end of this exhaustive process, the race day will eventually arrive. This is by far my favorite aspect of the game, as finally mixing it up with all the other drivers on the intricate and complex tracks of the Formula One world is a thrilling, if sometimes mystifying, exercise. Depending upon how you've got it configured (10% of a full race all the way to 100% is allowed), you'll need to mix in some pit strategy along with passing skills. One of the fabulous little quirks is a mini-game when you're in the pits, requiring quick use of your thumbs to press face and trigger buttons to help your crew along.
Winning career races, or coming in near the top, will net you points that accumulate through an entire season. This nets you more exposure, access to other teams, and bragging rights to your friends. You can also pursue a stand-alone season mode with plenty of real F1 racers, where all the facets described above are in play with the exception of proving yourself to sponsors on test tracks. Either way is an engrossing, addictive process that'll likely have you dreaming of finding just the right setup for your car and angle to take those tough turns.
When you're not pursuing offline delusions of grandeur, the online racing is fully functional and seems to work very well in my limited runs (I can't hang with the big boys on Live – these seriously dedicated dudes destroy me), although the races do max out at 11 human drivers. In addition, since the game is not out yet across the pond, there aren't that many players online these days. However, at the end of March 2007, I expect those numbers to rapidly increase when the F1 fanatics get their hands on the PS3 and this title. How well that will work with the significantly increased traffic is something we'll have to find out when it happens.
Certainly, F1 is a bit of a curious choice as a major release here in America, considering its subject matter and searing level of difficulty. There's no argument that it's a beautiful, well-executed tribute to the oh-so-European obsession that is Formula One racing. Fans of the sport and hardcore racers owe it to themselves to check it out, although you should be warned – prepare to spend some serious time learning how to be a race driver. You're gonna need the practice.