F1 simulators no better than a PlayStation

With Lewis Hamilton you may get the goofy stuff from time to time but you also get the interesting, frank commentary on things that are sacred idols of the Formula 1 series. Things like aerodynamics, HD tires and now, simulators.

When F1 banned in-season testing—and to be fair, it was getting ludicrous—they did so to cut costs. This begat an arms race as teams simply took the money they would spend on testing and plowed it into advanced simulators worth tens of millions of dollars. I’ve used one at Ferrari in Italy and to be honest, I found it rather difficult to get a handle on. For Lewis Hamilton, he doesn’t think much of them at all according to AUTOSPORT:

“I don’t drive the simulator a lot because it’s not at its best at the moment – we’re working on trying to make it better,” Hamilton said.

“I don’t do a lot of time in simulators. When I was at McLaren we did way too much.

“I could spend £100 on a PlayStation and learn the same amount.”

Now that’s very surprising to hear. To be honest, I think I have felt that way since they became de rigueur but to hear a Formula 1 triple champion say they are about as useful as a Playstation is a huge indictment on the millions upon millions the teams have spent on the. In fact, when I heard how much they spent on these systems, I firmly believe they could have saved money by testing a few times during the season. Now we’re doing both so effectively we are testing in-season and we’ve spent million on simulators.

On the other side of the coin, it’s all part of the mystique of F1 and the “high technology” brand and image the sport has so they leverage that with sponsors and the press and they do use that to provide F1 experiences to those they are marketing to. For that reason, I can understand but I think it’s a lavish expense for something they could easily have more open garage tours, visits to the test and office and achieved the same thing.

If Lewis thinks it, you know there are other drivers who do as well but aren’t in a position to be able to say it…Lewis is. It’s an interesting article so be sure to head over and read it.


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Indeed it was very refreshing to hear Lewis’s thoughts on simulators – and other things too like track-walks. He’s quite the iconoclast ;)

He did say though that the sims were of more help to the engineers in measuring the theoretical effect of aerodynamic & suspension changes, so perhaps they’re not totally without value. A driver might learn as much from a sim as from a PS4 game, but the engineers would not.

Negative Camber

That’s a fair point but I would assume if you asked the engineers, testing would be a far better tool. :)

Daniel Johnson

Also sim work probably is next to useless if you don’t have any hard data going in. Until you actually have some notes on grip level and all the rest it seems like you’re trying to paint the mona lisa with only 3 crayons.


Saying you shouldn’t walk the track is like saying you shouldn’t look at an anatomy chart before losing your virginity.

Joe Mama

That may be the worst analogy I’ve ever heard…and yet, it’s kinda fun to say.


Sim physics are getting better every year, and even though Hamilton doesn’t find them or track walks useful, lots of drivers do. At the very least they do help one to learn the line. I’d be interested to know how Hamilton does that. For a new track (e.g. Baku), he just jumps into P1, P2, P3 and starts driving? It’s not implausible, since no driver pre-2000 had easy access to a sim. Hamilton does have a romantic streak about racing, so maybe that’s his real motivation. “Senna didn’t need a sim, and neither do I.”


So rFactor = playstation F1 game…really?

I think not. It is probably more a matter of HAM driving a car so good, that driving (and winning with) it is as easy as in an arcadish playstation F1 game.


Either way by having the F1 teams venture into simulators, it helped advance the technology to make it more accessible to everyday Joes like ourselves. F1 2016 better not disappoint like the past 2 games…

Daniel Johnson

One other point is on brand new circuits sim work is probably useless because you can’t simulate the pavement and the grip (or lack there of). I can see where he’s coming from because in real life you use physical sensation cues on how to drive the car which aren’t replicable in a sim. As far as sims go though the stuff that’s coming out (rfactor and iracing) are really good at getting us mere mortals a first hand understanding of how these cars are really driven. In other words I’m much more of a knowledgable fan when I watch… Read more »

Bob Merlin

I agree with 99% of everything you wrote but I think you’re not giving the advancements on these console/pc games/programs/sims enough credit when it comes to being able to get a physical representation of reality. As of now, if and that’s a BIG If. Someone had all of the current hardware. You could get extremely close to reality, minus the g forces. That’s what’s going to be the big hinderance. Pretty much, most of all the physical aspects can get very close to reality now, but the G force aspect is tough to get around and I would guess that… Read more »


Maybe some sim time would have let him practice failure modes with regards to engine settings…

Meine Postma

I guess Rosberg does more sim-work than Hamilton.


From remembering other Lewis statements – where he just wants to drive, taking this into consideration – he seems like he is more like an old school type, not wanting the high-tech F1 but just a car that is fast with lots of grip. Too bad the FIA seems to be moving to lower speed, fuel efficient, highly computer controlled vehicles – optimized to get a good return on investment by the manufacturer….

Bob Merlin

You do realize that todays current Formula 1 cars are the fastest in history right?


I’ll bet that Lewis would use the simulator more if it had a post results to Twitter/Facebook/Instagram feature after each session.

Paul Riseborough

From the perspective of learning the track layout he is probably right – it’s all about the visuals and some games are pretty good in that area. The real benefit will be to the engineers. I’ve never worked in automotive/motorsport but do work in the aerospace sector and use simulation extensively as an engineering design tool. Once a simulation has been validated against real data it becomes very useful in testing modifications. For example the effect of changing tyre pressures on directional stability during landing or takeoff can be evaluated. At a new circuit with limited information on track surface… Read more »