This F1 mod includes every single season in the sport’s history - and one man did it

Gameplay of F1 Challenge VB
(Image credit: Valerio Bertolotti / EA)

In sports, we tend towards a recency bias. The rise of data analysis and ever-more sophisticated broadcasting gives us a much clearer look at modern-day athletes’ performances than was available even 20 years ago. So when you talk about a sport like Formula One, with a history spanning seven decades – much of it documented on grainy archive film – you tend to go back only as far as Prost or Senna when having GOAT debates, simply because that’s where our effective visibility ends. 

F1 Challenge VB All Seasons Mod is the antidote to that recency bias. Less of a “mod”, it’s actually a playable archive of every single race in F1’s history, from the 1950 Silverstone grand prix to the present. The level of detail is absolutely forensic – even the event programmes for each race are preserved here. 

Built on EA’s F1 Career Challenge, which was originally released in 2002, it leaves something to be desired visually to the modern eye. Neither the visuals nor the handling model can hold a candle to Codemasters’ F1 series, which has become so uncannily brilliant at aping Sky’s presentation that you have to squint to discern videogame from reality. Then again, F1 22 doesn’t have every single race circuit, car, driver, ad board, and tire compound in the sport’s 73-year history. And F1 Challenge VB does.

F1 Challenge VB gameplay

(Image credit: Valerio Bertolotti / EA)

lone Wolff 

In case the absurdity of that achievement wasn’t absolute, it’s all made by one person. A man called Valerio Bertolotti, to whom the entire F1 Challenge modding community and I are equal parts thankful to and staggered by.

You can use this mod to play the modern, Netflix-infused version of the sport in F1 Challenge, and you’d be well within your rights for doing so. EA’s game was always a popular modding platform from the moment it was released. Early maestros such as Ralph Hummerich added the bleeding-edge futurism of 2004 and 2005’s machines to the game with artisanal texture work that a younger me found almost unspeakably exciting. And lest we forget, EA’s original vision for the game was to be able to play several seasons sequentially – a ‘Career Challenge’, if you will – so playing that career right up to the present day makes an awful lot of sense. 

Where it gets really interesting, though, is when you start going backward

Where it gets really interesting, though, is when you start going backward. When you do that, you see how incredible the pace of change used to be. Through the 1990s alone, the fundamental shape of the cars' chassis changed dramatically several times, leading to three distinct eras of technology in one decade. A decade that began with incredibly dangerous, turbo-powered whirling dervishes with great, thick tires whose back ends will happily slip out through a corner, and ended with poised, sleek aerodynamic darts whose tacked-on wings regain some aero grip where the grooved tires give up mechanical grip.

These cars handle noticeably differently from year to year. It all feels like F1 Career Challenge, of course – slightly floaty, lacking a modern sim’s precise feedback and suspension modeling – but within that, there’s staggering detail in the feel of these cars, not just the look.

And it’s not just about the driving. You get a sense of how quickly things changed in the driver market, too. Racers came and went from race to race according to injuries, sponsor money, or simply the whims of team principals, and F1 Challenge VB has them all. All of them. Correct helmet designs and realistic pace, the lot. Before you load up a particular race of, say, the 1997 season, you can pick from one-off drivers such as Riccardo Rosset or Norberto Fontana, according to which race you’re selecting. 

F1 Challenge VB

(Image credit: Valerio Bertolotti / EA)

Bitmap lovers 

My personal favorite detail, though, and I’m not sure why, is that Bertolotti has captured every variation in car liveries from race to race. This change is especially noticeable during the ‘90s when governments started cracking down on booze and tobacco ads and innuendo-laden replacements like ‘Buzzin Hornets’ on Jordans and ‘Team Spirit’ on Renaults started to appear. Not to mention the famous Ferrari barcodes. 

And who remembers the ‘T-Minus’ sponsors on the 1999 Arrows’ sidepods? A hype-generating countdown sequence that, in the end, counted down to absolutely nothing. It’s all here.

The most fascinating thing in the whole mod is the really old stuff

But the most fascinating thing in the whole mod is the really old stuff. The bizarre machines of the ‘80s, the furious seventies machines, and the incredibly dangerous 200mph cigars on wheels that contested F1 races in the 50s and ‘60s. 

Play the 1950 season, and you’ll gain a newfound appreciation for the original heroes of the sport. Fangio, Farina, Fagioli, and co were so incredibly exposed as they drove, and the circuits they raced on featured so few braking zones and corners that their vehicles were at full speed almost the entire time. As a lifelong F1 fan, I didn’t have a sense of that until I played this mod. Nor did I realize quite how dominant the Alfa Romeos were, or that Spa-Francorchamps wasn’t the only vast forest run on those early race calendars. 

Switzerland had its own enormous circuit, complete with a perilous cobbled section whose hairpin completed the lap. And then there was the Indy 500, also part of the 1950 race calendar for some reason. You could read about these events on Wikipedia or watch archive footage of the races, but none of it gives you as much of a sense of Formula One in the fifties as actually playing through it in this mod.

Phil Iwaniuk

Ad creative by day, wandering mystic of 90s gaming folklore by moonlight, freelance contributor Phil started writing about games during the late Byzantine Empire era. Since then he’s picked up bylines for The Guardian, Rolling Stone, IGN, USA Today, Eurogamer, PC Gamer, VG247, Edge, Gazetta Dello Sport, Computerbild, Rock Paper Shotgun, Official PlayStation Magazine, Official Xbox Magaine, CVG, Games Master, TrustedReviews, Green Man Gaming, and a few others but he doesn’t want to bore you with too many. Won a GMA once.