The 'F1 2017' Trailer Is Inscrutable, Navel Gazing, and Brilliant

The F1 series tries to find its way forward with an audience that stays in the past.
May 19, 2017, 4:56pm

The great thing about the new trailer for F1 2017 is that it's completely inscrutable and boring.

Literally nothing happens in this trailer: you never see a glimpse of a racetrack, and none of the cars we see are ever shown moving. Nor does it even really make clear what it is we're supposed to care about as it lingers over bits and pieces of racing livery, sponsorship logos, and nose assemblies. It is insufferable in the exact way that Formula 1 fans are insufferable.

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I love it.

It's a trailer that speaks in code to people who have sentimental attachments to things like a Marlboro color scheme on a Honda-powered car, or a graceful red nose cone over a simple front wing. The way the trailer ends, with the whining buzz-saw sound of revving engines is almost grating, unless that sound is still music to your ears.

A lot of racing games miss this. They follow the Forza or Gran Turismo direction and present themselves as aspirational car porn: gleaming carbon-fiber bodies hurtling along ribbons of asphalt, catching the rays of a setting sun. They show garages full of mechanical marvels that you'd never be allowed to so much as test-drive in real life.

But it's a little different for motorsports games. A trailer like this resonates because it's about recapturing memories. F1 as a motorsports competition might be driven by being the fastest, the best, with the most advanced and efficient car. F1, as a fandom, is about nostalgia.

Naturally, the trailer is advertising the fact that F1 2017 is going to bring back classic and historic F1 cars, like the dominant 2002 Ferrari or Honda-powered McLarens that Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost used to wage their war against one another. But most importantly, it also signal that the F1 series is getting back to where it was in 2013, before the shift to new consoles meant a series of increasingly less impressive, less generous racing games out of Codemasters. Where F1 2013 felt like a labor of love, a work of shared enthusiasm between game developers and F1 fans, the next two iterations felt like contractual obligation releases. Even the re-addition of a career mode last year couldn't lure me back to the F1 cockpit. But finally, Codemasters look like they are back to offering more than the minimum.

F1 2017 is scheduled for an August 25 release.