When the 2020 F1 season was compromised by the COVID-19 pandemic, the organisers quickly scrambled to create a schedule which included a multitude of circuits that were not originally on the 2020 calendar.
Meanwhile at Codemasters, the developers were having to go into remote working just in time for the F1 game being primed for release. They had spent the last year implementing Formula 2 cars for the 2019 game, the My Team career mode for 2020 and eventually, the new Braking Point storymode for 2021.
Being forced into lockdown was a tricky situation for Codemasters' track developers. They had already taken a long time making Zandvoort and Hanoi for the 2020 game only for them to be removed from the 2020 schedule, with Zandvoort making its debut this year and Hanoi seemingly never happening at all!
F1's revised 2020 schedule included circuits such as Mugello, Nürburgring, Algarve, Imola, Istanbul Park and the sub-minute lap using Bahrain's outer layout. As a result, Codemasters were being asked when - not if - these six tracks would be added to the 2020 game, a herculean task that was just not possible for the game developers.
Missing from 2021
For 2021, F1 announced they would be visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time with a street race in Jeddah. Before the season began, both China and Vietnam were called off so F1 filled those slots with Imola and Algarve.
Then you'll be happy that we'll be adding Portimão, Imola, and Jeddah as free post-launch content!— Formula 1® Game (@Formula1game) April 15, 2021
You find out more here: https://t.co/rVFiVSBe6h
Later on, Istanbul Park was announced to be returning and changes were made to the Barcelona, Melbourne and Yas Marina circuits, all of which may be too much for Codemasters to rectify. As when the game was announced, Codemasters confirmed that Imola, Algarve and Jeddah will be post-launch free downloadable content and wouldn't be available immediately.
So when can we expect these three circuits to be added to the game? Well, the answer lies where you least expect it, F1 Esports. More specifically, the Chinese championship.
The F1 Esports Series China Championship returned at the weekend! And what an event we had 🤩— Formula 1 (@F1) May 5, 2021
Take a look at who took top honours, and how the 2021 season will play out 👉 https://t.co/bhUn4R9din#F1Esports 🎮 #F1 pic.twitter.com/aHovumSIlp
The F1 Esports China Championship has had a couple of seasons already but this year, they're hosting a 12-round championship with two races per event spanning from May to November. The first six events take place in F1 2020 before a six-week 'transfer period' before resuming on the F1 2021 title for the remaining six rounds.
Arguably, it has a better season structure than the F1 Esports Pro Series, but what is very interesting is what features in the last two rounds of the 2021 F1 Esports China Championship.
Listed in rounds 11 and 12 are the Imola, Algarve and Jeddah circuits respectively. Round 11 takes place on 17 October with the final round on 21 November, so that points to the three tracks being released at the bare minimum in the period leading up to 17 October.
It does seem like an agonising wait, but hopefully it will release beforehand. Nevertheless, creating tracks in-game is a monstrous task and the F1 game developers certainly had the biggest mountain to climb. Especially when, in stark contrast, MotoGP developers Milestone only needed to add Algarve to their game which was a relatively easy enough task considering the circuit had already appeared in their Ride game series.
In any case, when the Emilia Romagna, Portuguese and Saudi Arabian Grand Prix tracks are added, it will be a very welcome addition. With Codemasters under the control of EA, now may be the time that we can come to expect more tracks in future F1 titles to be added, such as the four other 2020 additions and perhaps other recent favourites such as Sepang and Hockenheim.
Imola, Algarve or Jeddah: which are you looking forward to driving the most? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!