After defying the expectations of yet another F1 game disappointment with F1 2010, Codemasters have returned with an update that is every bit as meticulous and thrilling.

Most of the improvements in F1 2011 are small additions – the kind of tweaks that F1 connoisseurs will lap up, like the latest tweaks to the Formula 1 rulebook and the inclusion of KERS and DRS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems and Drag Reduction Systems, if you need a translation).

The bigger changes are in multiplayer mode. The multiplayer races now support 16 rather than 12 players and are supplemented by a split-screen two-player mode and co-operative racing where players race online for the same team.

It also has all the 2011 season teams and circuits plus more refined handling during the races. Handling aside the racing hasn’t advanced much on 2010’s model, but it’s still got everything you could ask for from a F1 game. It’s fast and tense, a knife-edge contest for split-second advantages set to a shrill soundtrack of whining engines.

What’s more is that it manages, through its generous supply of ‘assists’, to be a racer that is as accessible as it is authentic. F1 know-it-alls can wrestle with expert level, where taming the vehicle’s raging horsepowers and keeping within the exacting rules is a seriously daunting challenge. Lesser mortals can select a more forgiving set up, all the way down to the handholding easy mode which highlights the best route, brakes for you and replaces crashes with dodgems-style bumping.

In fact, the biggest disappointments are the thankfully short media interviews you are asked to do in career mode with their showroom dummy reporters, banal questioning and even more banal choice of answers.

F1 2011 won’t surprise or shock owners of last year’s edition, but it’s a confident step forward for this excellent series.

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F1 2011 review

Whether your driving skills are Sebastian Vettel or Penelope Pitstop, F1 2011 drives in gaming’s fast lane