It’s incredible to think that F1 Manager is still such a young property.
The flow, mechanics, thought process and layers to the sport lend themselves so perfectly to a strategic, menu clicker that lets you really get down to the finer details in order to achieve success.
Frontier have cracked the formula, though, and really given enthusiasts the perfect tool to really dive in and immerse themselves as never before.
Don’t get me wrong, the F1 games themselves are first class racers that really delve deeply into the fundamentals, seperating it from other racers on the market. The handling and feel of the cars truly stands out, and there’s no denying it’s a visual tour de force.
But you don’t get to manage the morale of your racers, at least directly. Nor do you have to set up practice circuits, answer emails from sponsors and crew which force you to be mindful of budgets, all the while tweaking and fine-tuning your vehicles to a minute detail so they can achieve maximum performance and adapt to unique conditions.
F1 Manager 2023 is an analysts dream. Though from what I hear, it’s not a huge upgrade over last years’ release – I can’t attest to that.
What I can tell you is that I was a bit blown away by it all. I wouldn’t call myself an F1 nerd but I have just about awareness to know what’s going on when driving around a track. I think this game gave me a true appreciation for just how much work the crews put into this, talking about everything from tire overheating and finding the balance, to incident reports.
That’s probably the thing to be most clear and aware of here – you’ve really got to know your stuff in order to maximise enjoyment. This game’s difficulty curve is dependent on how much you study and follow F1, of what your understanding of the sport is and how much you read around what goes on the track, your wider knowledge of cars investigative, observations on the courses and what kind of work goes on in the pit.
The base experience is the campaign where you move from season to season, managing contracts, teams, tweaking cars, and ultimately making sure you are recognised as the best in the world.
Before kicking off, you have to select your team of course. And the selections are every brand you’d expect – from Red Bull to Ferrari – enabling you to directly manage the racers you know and love.
Once in, you’ll literally have full control over every component of the game. You can even race the car if you so wish, but that’s not necessarily what this ones about. Which you’ll know if you’ve ever put any time into Football Manager, it’d be like comparing it to FIFA … sorry, EA Sports FC.
But there’s a wide range of cars to work with and circuits to race around, and you’ll get to study those in finite detail, too, from the weather conditions, to the heatmap of the course, where there have previously been crashes, where you’ve had difficulties before.
You can do Sprint Races and Practice Runs, before attempting qualifying and then ultimately the race itself, so you feel as prepared as humanly possible. Additionally, before driving, you can make adjustments to your vehicles in the menus, testing out certain features in wind tunnels, trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a clear way of saving your racing setup before each race, meaning you have to manually adjust this every time. Some pre-sets would have definitely made some sense here and kept a bit of continuity, especially if one particular style is working well for you. It almost doesn’t help people like me who are a tad forgetful.
Beyond the menus, this is a really cinematic, like-for-like experience that looks and feels like a recreation of a professionally hosted event. From the conversations you see, to people putting on their helmet, wishing each other luck and the cars getting primed to get ready and drive. It’s not quite the same visual spectacle as the F1 games but it’s beautiful all the same.
Of course, you can see for yourself how your car is performing by diving right on the dash cam, being right in the thick of the action with commands bellowing over the intercom, but you can also see the impact these races have on your riders. They can lose confidence from a poor practice session or feel neglected if you’re not really doing a good job looking after them.
Personally, my first few seasons sucked. I was just trying to learn the game, what didn’t work, what might work, what I absolutely shouldn’t do again. But it was ok because I was quite enjoying myself coasting through while having a level of control most games could only dream of. It was actually quite refreshing knowing how in charge I am of the situation, though of course racer AI also plays a part and they’re not going to take it easy on you out there.
That said, when I made some changes and clearly noticed a difference, that genuinely gave me cause to smile. It’s then I realised I was starting to click and gel with the game.
All the sounds you’d expect to hear from the tracks are present, from that familiar whirring, to the sound of fixing and tweaking within the garage. There’s even a lovely musical score playing in the background that just helps you relax and concentrate on the game’s technicalities without being too distracting or overbearing.
The build itself also feels pretty stable and solid. I didn’t encounter any hiccups or major issues, even when out racing on the courses and everything flows really well with minimal loading.
And beyond campaign there’s also a brand new Race Replay, which basically lets you take on the exact races you’ve seen on TV, down to original positions, conditions on the day, and recreating familiar, iconic moments.
These scenarios add a nice bit of something extra to the experience, letting you feel a bit closer to the action, seeing how you’d respond in those moments, and reminding you that even the professionals get it wrong. So don’t feel disheartened if your Season is in tatters.
Is F1 Manager 2023 going to be for everyone? Most definitely not. This attacks a very specific genre niche that even some people who play F1 are not going to be in for. But just like Football Manager, this has room to grow, build, get better, improve and really find its footing.
From what I can see, there’s some significant, marked improvements over last year, but also lots of content that does remain the same. Regardless, it can be super enjoyable if you’re willing to invest the time, accept that things aren’t going to go your way most of the time, but always be willing to learn.
F1 Manager 2023 is everything you’d expect it to be, but equally it does a great job of bundling it in a well-presented, fulfilling package. And F1 fans are going to adore it. Though one can’t help but wonder how long Frontier will spend supporting this one after abandoning its predecessor so quickly.
F1 Manager 2023 can be tough to love and it’s definitely one you’ll need more than a passing interest in the sport to play. However, once you get into its layers, build out your tactics, understand the optics, and familiarise yourself with a broad range of strategies, the experience truly opens up to you and can be incredibly fulfilling. Race Replay also adds a fun side detour that helps break up the intensity of the campaign and remind yourself why you love this sport.
+ Expertly presented and lovingly crafted
+ So many options and possibilities available to you, offer incredible level of control
+ Visually stunning and impressive when out on the tracks.
+ Racing Recap has some great scenarios to play through
– A high difficulty curve, made even tougher if you don’t understand the sport beyond a surface level
– Inability to save racing pre-sets is a bit frustrating
– Doesn’t seem to be a huge upgrade from F1 Manager 2022
F1 Manager 2023 is out now on PC, PS5, and Xbox
Code Kindly Provided by Frontier for review purposes
Tested on PC