Your mileage may vary.
My enjoyment for this game may be entirely due to the fact that, aside from casually watching the random F1 race with friends, I know absolutely nothing about the sport aside from its distinct vehicles and lengthy tracks. This game is the opposite of Mario Kart, which I appreciate, but it also takes a certain amount of patience to learn and actual skill to win. There won't be Blue Shells clobbering the dude in first place, here. You've gotta win by actually driving well.
If, like me, you know nothing about driving an F1 car, fear not—the game includes so many player assist tools that, at a certain point, the car almost drives itself. Auto braking, arrow signals, tire wear, a blue line down the road—these toggles (and more) are optional and readily available for idiots like me. And I really love that, since you essentially customize the difficulty settings, which carry over to each of the many game types.
You can jump into a random race with Quick Play, go through a single Grand Prix season, run the gauntlet with Career Mode (which has you playing through three seasons), do some time trials or practice runs to get to know the courses, or try local or online multiplayer. Something I will say about online multiplayer, though, is that I haven’t even SEE anybody to play with online since I got this game. Either I'm having horrible luck finding matches, or nobody is playing this online.
Once the rubber hits asphalt, F1 2011 feels good. There's a great sense of speed, especially with some of the more driver-centric camera views, and weaving in and out of the pack to get a first place finish in the competitive modes is great fun. Well, it's great fun when the AI isn't being a dick—often your opponents treat this sport of subtlety like an off-road rally, smashing into your car (which goes flying at 200 mph) or boxing you into a herd of other drivers. This can be frustrating, especially since it's difficult to get ahead if you're left in the dust for too long. There's no catch-up AI here. Sometimes the bully wins, but if you're a bully, you'll get penalized (unless you turn penalties off, like I did). While I would never want to slog through three entire seasons in Career Mode, Grand Prix is fun and provides the sort of pick-up-and-play sense of progression that I enjoy. I get more out of racing games when there are opponents to race against, but the practice sessions and time trials are fun too. The latter gives you medals for getting under certain times, and it really pays to know the track.
The only thing I generally don't like about the racing? Courses are often incredibly long, and not all of them are well-differentiated. I found myself wondering, "How is this still the first lap? Didn't I make this turn like five minutes ago?" It's a strange feeling, but maybe it's because I'm not used to F1.
There are some negatives, though. Actually, quite a few, and they present themselves in the production values. The game looks good, but not great—the 3DS can do better. Texture work is lazy at best, and cars lack detail and sheen. Some camera angles bring the game's graphical shortcomings into view more than others, but I can't speak well of the graphics in general. The 3D effect is great when you're the only one on the track, but with a bunch of opponents onscreen simultaneously, the frame rate starts to chug in 3D. It's more noticeable than in Dead or Alive, for instance.
There's also a lack of sound design. The cars sound different, but their engines sound tinny and not all powerful—the complete opposite of how an engine capable of going 0 to 60 in like five seconds should sound. There's really no music to speak of either. That's probably part of the "sim" aspect of this game, but I think some catchy tunes would have engaged me during the longer courses. Thankfully, the game's controls are smooth and responsive.
F1 is definitely not for everyone. I probably won't get too much more play time out of it, since Mario Kart is also on my shelf, and that's more my speed. Still, the serious racing fan will likely get a kick out of this one. A lot of care went into the total package, and while there are some AI issues and lack of graphical impressiveness, it's hard not to appreciate what Codemasters and Sumo Digital have managed to cram onto this little game card. But depending on how into F1 you are, your experience may vary.