F1 Manager 2022 – drive the team (pic: Frontier)
A reader gives their view of Frontier’s first attempt at a F1 management game and suggests it will please both hardcore and casual fans.
Formula 1 has become much more popular of late. Netflix’s Drive To Survive, last year’s intense rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappan, and this year’s regulation changes that provide closer racing – all of these elements have broadened the sport’s appeal and ensured a huge audience, hungry for action and drama. So Frontier’s release, complete with full FIA license, could hardly be more timely.
While the fundamentals of the game will be familiar to anyone who has played a sports management sim – lots of pages with lots of data – that FIA licence means that there is a whole extra dimension to this game: race weekends jammed with familiar cars and faces and voices.
Unsurprisingly, at first blush the game can appear overwhelming, even for a long-time F1 afficionado. There’s a lot of information to take in all at once, but a very welcome, fully-voiced assistant eases you into the first steps and gets the player to the meat of the first race quickly. Frontier clearly recognise that their title’s strength lies in its TV-like experience and this ensures that it’s shown off sooner rather than later. And it is a treat.
While the visuals aren’t on a par with the likes of EA’s F1 22, the difference in presentation of racing between F1 Manager and, say, Playsport’s Motorsport Manager is huge. It is very easy to get swept up in the action and actually feel like you’re participating in an actual Formula 1 race weekend.
Getting to that first race quickly, bypassing the nitty gritty and the practice sessions, is a great hook.
Not only do the races look good, but those engine sounds are sure to put a smile on a F1 fan’s face. The commentary, however, is less convincing, but the intros can be skipped, and it’s easy to forgive the repetitive, and sometimes hyperbolic, nature of Crofty’s banter throughout the events. All sessions can be fast-forwarded in increments between 2x and 16x. Double the speed still provides a race view, which is welcome, while the faster options switch to dots on a map.
While it is tempting to zoom through a race that feels boring or predictable, it’s best to use these with caution lest you miss opportunities. The feed will switch back to real-time when something interesting happens, such as a crash or an upcoming pitstop, but there is much to be gained from not rushing things, taking stock of your position and instructing your drivers accordingly.
Balancing the use of tyres, fuel, and the Energy Recovery System against your intended strategy can be one of the most rewarding parts of the simulation. Saving battery charge and instructing your driver to lift and coast for a couple of laps, only to unleash an attack on a stubborn rival and overtake them, is a satisfaction worth waiting for.
Even if a would-be manager wanted to sit back and watch the race unfold, there is plenty to enjoy: alongside the traditional race view the player can switch to onboard cams that can really ramp up the drama; there are incidents aplenty in most races (although their rendering can be a little comical and repetitive at times); and the game not only includes safety cars – both physical and VSC – but also red flags which stop the race and can throw a spanner in the strategy or offer a lifeline, depending on your drivers’ circumstances and your own planning.
While it is undeniable fun to watch the race, it’s this element of strategy that is the lifeblood of the game. One of your drivers stuck in a DRS train? Feel free to pit them early for some clean air. Think your driver has the chops to manage the tyres longer than expected? Let them at it. Banking on a safety car to make your strategy work? The game will give you all the information you need to make an informed choice, including the percentage a safety car has appeared at the track in previous years.
Of course, one of the most common elements to mix up races in real life is rain. Bernie Ecclestone famously said that he wanted to stick sprinklers at the trackside that would come on at random times, and one only has to think back to Spa 2021 to see just how severe an effect weather can have on a Grand Prix weekend. F1 Manager 2022 mostly models this pretty well. The accuracy of the forecast at your disposal is down to the level of your weather centre. If you want better information, you need to spend the millions to upgrade the facility.
The severity of the rain, however, is something of a surprise, with any rainfall tagged as moderate or stronger usually requiring the use of full wet tyres. For someone accustomed to real F1 this will probably come as a surprise, as the full wet – or extreme – tyre is rarely seen in a modern race, as its use indicates conditions that are often seen as unacceptably dangerous (again, think Spa 2021), but once you factor in this shift, the strategic pit call becomes one of the most fun, and most tense, elements of the game.
On that note, it would be easy to ignore the practice sessions as offering little in the way of excitement. After the initial race, the player could be forgiven for wanting to get back to the drama of qualifying and the race itself as quickly as possible, but these sessions can offer an unexpected level of tension in their own right. Leaving them simulated may offer up something like 70-odd percent setup familiarity for each driver, while taking control of them yourself can yield a much higher (or lower) number. This shifts the player from manager more towards engineer, with a sort of mini-game where the driver provides feedback and the player has to balance the car to provide the best performance.
Go the wrong way with the setup and that Free Practice 3 session can be quite a sweat. One of the great things about the way this works is that it’s driver dependent: while one driver might prefer their car to be more on the nose (i.e. with more oversteer), the other may want to go the other way, and having the real voices for each driver and engineer pairing is another factor that keeps up the sense of immersion. The familiarity that comes from hearing the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Pete Bonnington chat is another example of Frontier making good use of that FIA licence.
After the race is done, however, there is surprisingly little in the way of feedback. While you do get a decent written race report, it is strange not to hear from the drivers. Even when the player has made some catastrophic strategy calls in the race, there is no driver backlash, and nor is there any press to deal with. True, you are answerable to the board, but that’s it. It would be good to see future updates or iterations of the game plug this gap.
Despite this omission there is still plenty to do between races, including upgrading the cars, researching next year’s car, and negotiating contracts. Car upgrades can bolster that just one more race imperative that the game’s race weekends already offer, and ploughing money and thought into the following year provides excitement as the new season approaches.
That being said, it feels like a missed opportunity that the player cannot watch or participate in pre-season testing, instead you’re provided with a short report on how the car fares next to the competition. Also, while negotiating contracts is fun, there is currently no option to start a new contract next season, with new signings taking up their positions immediately, which is odd.
As well as upgrading cars, drivers also have an role-playing like system where the manager can spend earned points bolstering deficiencies and developing strengths. There’s also fun to be had in scouting for new talent: snatch up a promising talent from the lower formulas, give them a reserve driver seat and develop their skills in practice sessions. The age-old mechanic of the sports sim is at its best here, ensuring that, alongside the relationship the manager has with their primary drivers, there is an emotional investment in the future of the team.
Overall, F1 Manager is a heap of fun, but it’s not without a few other issues. Sprint races, which have been part of real F1 for a while now, aren’t represented at all, and, while the safety car implementation is pretty well fleshed-out, lapped cars do not un-lap themselves after a safety car period, which can result in unwanted (and unrealistic) congestion when a restart should be a tense and exciting prospect. Also, as mentioned above, the graphical issues around crashes really could use some work as they are one of the few elements that break the spell.
Frontier have made a good fist of the licence, given their first attempt. F1 Manager isn’t as deep as Playsport’s Motorsport Manager, because it isn’t as evolved, but early signs suggest that the developers are listening and they have already provided a couple of patches based on user feedback, working on issues like tyre degradation and AI.
If you’re already an F1 fan then F1 Manager 2022 can fill that gap in the weekends, when there isn’t a real race and give you a chance to prove that you do indeed know better than Mattia Binotto. If, on the other hand, you’re new to Formula 1 – maybe intrigued by Drive to Survive – then the game will provide hours of fun, and you’ll learn a lot along the way.
F1 Manager 2022 review summary
In Short: A very good first effort from Frontier, that immerses the player very successfully and caters for F1 diehards and newbies alike.
Pros: Great use of the official F1 licence means that race weekends are immersive and fun. A welcome tutorial and the option to simulate sessions makes the game more accessible to the F1 newcomer. A good amount of depth for those that want it.
Cons: Some real life F1 elements aren’t included, such as sprint races and the unlapping of cars at the end of a safety car period. Crash graphics could use some work. Driver and press interaction after the race would flesh things out.
Formats: PC (reveiewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 5
Release Date: 30th August 2022
Age Rating: 3
By reader Stevie Barrett
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