First of all, choose your team. I started my career with Toro Rosso, the little brother of Red Bull. The Toro Rosso car saw me win my first F1 Championship, thanks to the great handling. It enables you to take people easily on the corner, but still has enough speed for you to overtake on the straights. Of course, you can just choose a team who you like the look of (check below)
Below, I've made a list of the teams and their drivers. You will take the place of the 2nd driver of one of the lower teams.
McLaren- Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes- Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg
Red Bull- Sebastien Vettel, Mark Webber
Ferrari- Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso
Wiliams- Rubens Barrichello, Nico Hülkenberg
Renault- Robert Kubica, Vitaly Petrov
Force India- Adrian Sutil, Vitantonio Liuzzi
Toro Rosso- Sébastien Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari
Lotus- Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovalainen
HRT- Karun Chandhok, Bruno Senna
BMW Sauber- Pedro de la Rosa, Kamui Kobayashi
Virgin- Timo Glock, Lucas di Grassi
Once you have your team, you'll find yourself as the second driver for that team. The first team driver will recieve any upgrades that are accquired throughout the season first, with you being the second priority in the team. Make yourself familiar with your team, make sure you know the name of your team mate, as you don't want to be rough with them on the track, or your team will suffer.
I've listed the races/tracks you will face in the order that you will them through the seasons.
Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix
Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir
Qantas Australian Grand Prix
Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne
Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix
Sepang International Circuit, Kuala Lumpur
Chinese Grand Prix
Shanghai International Circuit
Gran Premio de España Telefónica
Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona
Grand Prix de Monaco
Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo
Turkish Grand Prix
Grand Prix du Canada
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal
Telefónica Grand Prix of Europe
Valencia Street Circuit
Santander British Grand Prix
Großer Preis Santander von Deutschland
Eni Magyar Nagydíj
Belgian Grand Prix
Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Spa
Gran Premio Santander d'Italia
Autodromo Nazionale Monza
SingTel Singapore Grand Prix
Marina Bay Street Circuit
Japanese Grand Prix
Suzuka Circuit, Suzuka
Korean Grand Prix
Korean International Circuit, Yeongam
Grande Prêmio Petrobras do Brasil
Autódromo José Carlos Pace, São Paulo
Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Yas Marina Circuit
For me, the most difficult track that I highly recommend looking out for is the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore. The circuit doesn't look much, but it's incredibly difficult to get around the corners. If you try and hit the apex like you normally would, you begin to spin off the track unless you have lots of concentration. Take my word for it, it's one of the hardest tracks in the game, and should be approached with caution. Spend alot of time in practice until you can get around the track comfortably. If you can't get into the top 10 in the practice session, you will not qualify well. You also need to get a high qualifying time, as it's difficult to get past people in a street circuit.
The other track you need to qualify well for is the Circuit de Monte Carlo, as on that track, is near enough impossible to overtake anybody. Where you qualify is more than likely where you'll end up finishing. They are the 2 tracks I can recall being a real challenge. My favourite track is the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. It's long straights mixed with tight corners, and it's a great track to race on. Overtaking is extremely easy. The track I've achieved my best result on has to be on the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo. That is also an extremely fun track. It's easy to learn and it's a track you can glide around without losing much speed, due to the way the straights merge into each other.
The first season can be the most challenging, as it's the first time you'll meet the tracks. On the plus side, you'll be familiar with the tracks for the next season, and as you progress through your career, you should see your times getting better and better, aswell as your qualifying and racing places. It's essential to spend as much time practicing as you can, particularly in the first season. It will set the foundation for your career. The more you can do in your first year, the less work you'll have later on, and in my opinion, the more enjoyable the rest of your career will be.
Don't get too competetive in your first season. You're not expected to finish 1st every race, or win the driver's championship. Just familiarise yourself with each race, take notes on particular corners (mental, not literal!), keep out your team mates way and listen to your pit team. If you can do all this in your first season, you'll find yourself being offered contracts by other teams near the end of the first season.
Now the essential part of a contract is the driver number you will be for that particular team. Contracts that offer you a position as driver one should take priority over driver two position, even if the driver two position is for a better team. You want to get yourself to the top of any team as quick as you can. That way you will recieve upgrades quicker, will be the team's priority, and will just be more noticable. For your second season (depending on how many years you've chosen for your career) you'll either be a second driver for a good team, or if your on a longer career, you should be first driver for one of the lower teams. By year 3, you should have enough reputation to make it to, or at least near, the top. If you're on a short career (3 years) you should be first driver for a top team, with this being your last season. Longer careers, you should be aiming for a first driver position on a higher team. Going into season 4, you should definitely have enough reputation to be racing alongside the best, taking you through to the end of your 5 year or 7 year career. These are just estimates, I'm sure with some extra work, you could achieve these goals earlier. Either way, following this guide should see you on the right track. No pun intended. Honestly.
Thanks for reading.