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F1 Manager 22: Manager Sim or simulated madness?

The first F1 manager game for 22 years has been hyped more than the build up to Abu Dhabi 2021. Has it delivered?

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For years football fans have enjoyed detailed and granular level manager games. F1 has been without one since 2000 when EA held the licence. Until now.  

F1 Manager 22 is the first F1 management game in two decades (Image Credit: F1 Manager 22)

To state this game for F1 nerds on a site called FormulaNerds may come across as slightly indulgent. But that is exactly the target audience. Many millennial F1 fans remember their first exposure to F1 through the fantastic Grand Prix series. The other introduction was the F1 Manager series. Both series were developed by genre legend Geoff Crammond of Microprose. The Grand Prix Manager series suffered from terrible 1990s animations, but also featured the voices of the late Sir Stirling Moss. Players could set up and tinker with their car however they wished. Sponsors and engine suppliers needed special attention as well. The level of detail ensured this was not for casual gamers. I first played it at age 7, and I loved it.

Frontier has taken the blueprints of all previous F1 manager games and transformed them into a game that will leave F1 fans wanting more. While not perfect, it is a strong start. The level of detail this game dives into is unparalleled. It is an F1 nerd’s paradise, as players can do everything from the old Grand Prix Manager series, and more. There is an impossible amount of features to box off in just 24 hours of playing, but the game is a radical departure from EA F1 22, as it should be.

From the dramatic start menu to the in-race TV graphics, F1 Manager 22 has a clear message: you are in control and have responsibility over the high-stakes world of your team from the moment you open the game. One word of warning to players, you can skip sessions, I highly discourage this. I found to my great cost that driver confidence and overall performances suffer. Sheer luck saw both of my drivers recover in the race.  That said, there is a lot to love.  Let’s take a look at the key features.

Home screen – so many numbers & options
The home screen features dramatic music, with the drivers attempting to match it (Image Credit: F1 Manager 22)

The first thing players see when they open F1 Manager 22 is the dramatic menu, complete with smouldering drivers. All drivers have the same expression, and it suits some more than others (sorry Lando, not sure about yours). Each team has a verbal detailed introduction from David Croft. To help you decide, each team has a budget, resource level and board expectations.

We have a very helpful assistant for the off-season and first race. Fans will either love or hate the game layout. There are a raft of menu sub-menus, and ones below that as well. It is like being on holiday in a restaurant with no identity, the pages and options just keep coming. Logically laid out, all have a purpose. For example, the Boardroom screen will have an image of one, and race preparation has the image of a garage with a transporter. Players should really take their time to understand the layout of the game, particularly those who are new to manager games.

Take your time when navigating and getting to know the variety of actions available, including managing the creation of car parts (Image Credit: F1 Manager 22)

Almost everything you can think of is available for modification. The facilities tab alone contains a Boardroom, hospitality area, weather centre, a helipad, memorabilia room and a tour centre. From a financial perspective, players can review their progress in relation to the cost cap. Open the Cars tab and players can create new car parts, and examine current car performance. This particular option brings up a vast array of numbers, from dirty air cornering to how many G’s a car generates. Once you’ve built a new part you can manage the build for both cars, if you favour one driver be careful.

Race weekends – release your inner Wolff & Horner
Players will find managing a Grand Prix challenging but satisfying. How hard a driver pushes can have serious consequences (Image Credit: F1 Manager 22)

The race weekends are where F1 Manager 22 truly shines. The inclusion of TV graphics was the main feature discussed at the game reveal, for good reason. These camera angles mirror those of the live TV feed.  The graphics themselves are impressive, transporting you to a race weekend. The attention to detail here is meticulous and shows real respect for the fans and players.

Your drivers and commands feature at the bottom of the screen in sessions. Depending on the stage of the race weekend, commands include pitting or reconfiguring the car.  Each session receives a TV introduction from David Croft. Sessions can be simulated (do this at your peril). When managing practice sessions, drivers give feedback on their setup and indicate where to focus on improvements. There are no easy answers or solutions to this so be prepared to experiment. Anything below 50% confidence will mean trouble for qualifying and the race.

The cameras will be set to default outside the garage in qualifying and practice.  This is where simulated practice sessions can bite. Simulate the practice sessions and your drivers will have less than 50% confidence in the car. This causes your cars to be off the pace, and I found my McLarens in P13 and P14 at the end of the session, unable to modify the setup in line with parc ferme conditions. Then, forgetting I needed to make a strategy beforehand, I sent my cars to the grid on soft tyres with no pit window. As the game cut to the start line, the adrenaline pumped with equal excitement as the first time with assistance. David Croft said “lights out and away we go”, my management graphics appearing.

I had the option to forward time, but I found it much more satisfying to control my drivers instead. It was a very fine line between letting them push vs conserving fuel and tyres. A very handy graphic shows your driver’s tyre lifespan, with a white line demonstrating how they are performing. The race is also where driver strengths come into play. Keeping Lando Norris above the tyre line proved relatively simple, but his fuel consumption would start to increase. Daniel Ricciardo meanwhile was struggling to pass an Alpine, but his fuel consumption was getting better each lap.

Players will enjoy managing their drivers during a race (Image Credit: F1 Manager 22)

Norris’s tyres started to fall off a cliff. Given he was behind a DRS train, I decided to pit him early and undercut the five cars ahead. An authentic clip of Norris came over the radio asking to change tyres with his race engineer acknowledging. What I did next proved just how much attention players need to give the pre-race screens.

I placed Norris and Ricciardo on a lap later on mediums. Competitors fitted hards. My race looked done as both cars would need to pit again, and were out of the points. Although I was telling my cars to push, all overtakes would be rendered pointless when the tyres fell off the cliff.  Vettel then crashed out with just 15 laps to go (no bodywork flew off, so this could be improved), bringing out the red flag. I fitted softs onto both cars and watched them come home P9 and P10.

Despite my somewhat fortunate save in the race, the board was not pleased. Qualifying no doubt played its part. What was interesting is that I could have accelerated time through the race. But the TV graphic views of the action or onboard your car are so exciting along with watching the strategy that I simply did not want to. I was totally engrossed in this race, cheering as my cars passed a competitor, and verbally showing my displeasure when they lost places. My inner Wolff and Horner came out, and in this game, it is so easy to do. The used race audio of drivers interacting with their engineers only adds to the feeling of authenticity.  You are in total control of your race.

Triumphant return for F1 manager games – but take your time

F1 Manager 22 is a brilliant return to manager games for the sport. Do not rush playing this game.  Players need to examine each menu and its function. It is not the case that one button press will do when examining each area. Sponsors’ commitments need as much interaction as setting up the car at a Grand Prix weekend.

This game will not appeal to all, as the level of detail will be too much for casual gamers. But the truly great quality of F1 Manager 22 is that it does not compromise on what it is. This is a game for full F1 nerds who want to control every aspect of their team, using detail not seen for two decades. For Frontier to then expand it to make a fully immersive manager game is quite an achievement.   The 22 years between games has been well worth the wait. Bravo Frontier, bravo.

F1 Manager 22 is out tomorrow.

Feature Image Credit: @F1Manager on Twitter

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