The joys of racing are universal. I recall a time I won online at Monaco in the wet with a last-lap overtake. It was electric. I get to travel the rich debutante’s universe of speed at a fraction of the cost. I have driven hundreds of laps around laser-mapped Monza in digital Ferraris—so many that I’m convinced I could handle a normal car around that track. Monaco, with its tight corners and gaping concrete barriers, takes me a few days (and zesty beverages) each season in the F1 games.
Sim racing has made me appreciate the real skill of actual racing drivers. I can’t press all the buttons I need—overtake, DRS, differential adjustment, shifting—in nearly any game I play. I rely on assists of all sorts to keep me in the hunt at all. Folks like Verstappen and Hamilton, among many other drivers across racing disciplines, do this stuff while enduring insane g-forces and temperatures with shockingly little variation, lap after lap. It’s like watching Joshua Bell calmly play classical violin in time while walking across hotter and hotter coals.
For myself and many other faux racers, sim racing offers a great way to steer around the track without the risks (or expense, or weather, or lack of zesty beverages) of reality. You really can drive around world-famous locations and test your mettle with near-real pedal inputs and wheel inputs. Then you can go inside to feed your dog dinner.
When you get past how silly it is that a sport can be made this close to reality in this accessible a manner, it’s purely exciting. Hamilton’s half brother Nicolas is a physically disabled sim racer turned pro driver (with a modified car for his needs). Whether using a pad or wheel and pedals, sim racing means safer and more accessible wheel time for all, regardless of age, location, or physical capabilities. You can sign up for teams, tournaments, and many other events in major games. Sim racing games, like top-tier iRacing, even require you to earn safety points and spend time in lower-tier classes before you can race faster cars, just like in real life. Get good enough, and you might literally be racing against real F1 drivers on their weeks off.
Another great bonus with sim racing is that it’s saving me money in another way: This sim setup is so good, it immediately silenced any midlife urge to buy a muscle car. When you can race your mid-engined Ferrari GT3 car between slices of pizza, crash it into a wall, and hit the Reset button, it’s hard to imagine changing a real one’s oil (let alone the front end). I entirely get why Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz drove a Volkswagen Golf for years.
One thing I did buy, after many hours and some raw hands: custom racing gloves in red, yellow, and green with my last name embossed on the wrists. I might never go to Monza in real life, but hey, you have to look the part. Even if it’s just in my fantasies.