F1 Manager 2022 Review

September 8, 2022
Also on: PC, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series
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It all makes sense now. For most of this season Ferrari have outdone themselves, race-on-race, in terms of mis-management and absolutely baffling strategic decisions. From putting the slowest tyre on to Charles Leclerc’s car in Hungary to only having three tyres ready for Carlos Sainz in Zandvoort. It seemed too strange for such an established team to be committing so many errors so often but now, post-release of F1 Manager 2022, the real reason has become clear. What we have here is the world's craziest marketing strategy. By getting Ferrari to commit so many errors, it could spur F1 fans worldwide to think they could do better and rescue Ferrari digitally and so purchase Frontier Developments’ newest management sim. 

Whilst my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek, the current bizarre behaviour of Ferrari will be doing its sales no harm at all. I must admit, when I first booted up F1 Manager 2022, I too was tempted to manage Ferrari and take on the Red Bulls. Instead, I got all misty-eyed for my childhood and decided to see if I could, over time, restore Williams to their late eighties/early nineties glory. It’s been some time since the Grove outfit challenged for any significant honours and this multi-season project seemed the perfect way to dive into all aspects F1 Manager 2002. What I wasn’t quite prepared for, however, was just how hard it would be to achieve a personal first season target of a Q2 appearance.

I do miss the old, early nineties Williams livery. This one isn’t bad, mind.

If you’ve played Playground Games’ Motorsport Manager then a lot of things will seem very familiar. It’s not a carbon copy but you’ll feel very much at home on the pit wall. You could say that F1 Manager 2022 is a spiritual successor since a sequel has not emerged from Playground Games in the intervening six years since Motorsport Manager’s 2016 PC launch. Once you’ve picked your team, you are carried through each screen and event for the first time by the rather helpful and yet not too overbearing tutorial. Information is given about what you can do in each of the home screen sections, but you’re left to your own devices beyond that with very few predetermined first steps.

Given our Williams car was pretty awful in any category it was tough to know where to start. Better facilities would likely yield better parts and better cars moving forward but to get more money we had to perform well on race weekends. In the end, a new rear wing was commissioned to be designed. Unfortunately it would take time to arrive and the Bahrain Grand Prix was coming up almost straight away. Whilst the tutorial commits you to simulating the first practice session it feels like a missed opportunity to take you through car setup. This is a crucial component in your race weekend. Get this right and your driver is much more confident and, by extension, faster. Equally, once you make it to the race itself, it’s just assumed you’re good to go in terms of when to tell your driver to push and when to back off.

This is as close as we got to points in our first season, the Red Bull Ring suiting our car the most

Tutorials are difficult to get right. Make all the decisions for the player with little wiggle room and it’s holding your hand too much. Say little-to-nothing and the learning curve can be too harsh. Overall, F1 Manager 2022 does a pretty good job of showing you the ropes and before too long, if you’re like me, you are taking control of all the sessions, tweaking the car in the hopes of hitting your driver’s optimal setup. Whilst this does help your driver feel more confident and hopefully faster, it doesn’t guarantee a result. If you choose a back of the field team like I did, you will find your first season tough. You can change drivers, spend some money but success will be finishing in the midfield and overhauling your nearest competitor.

Whilst the feeder F2 and F3 series aren’t playable — an inclusion in the future perhaps — they do provide a pool of potential stars of the future. As a team principal it’s important that you look ahead as well as what is in front of you. To that end, you will have your third, known as a reserve driver, who you can develop to replace one of your drivers down the track. If you manage this properly, you might be able to get an absolute star in your car for significantly less outlay than picking up an established driver in the open market. Driver moves are a thing and if you want to unceremoniously dump one of the set drivers in your first season — which I did, sorry Latifi — you can absolutely do so.

Mind you, Austria might have gone better if Albon hadn’t spun

Race day is where F1 Manager 2022 really comes alive and shows off plenty of its strengths. Unfortunately, it is also where some of its major weaknesses are cruelly exposed. Starting with the positive though, the race day presentation is spot on, from Crofty’s introduction to the race weekend to occasional commentary moments when disaster strikes on track. It’s all in there and, despite occasional repetitiveness, it helps create some decent immersion. This is also helped by a very visually pleasing race engine which, for the most part, looks pretty damn good for what is a management sim but don’t expect detailed crash physics: this engine has its limits.

Speaking of crashes, at time of writing, the damage model of F1 Manager 2022 needs some serious tweaking. At the Monaco Grand Prix we had a pretty average qualifying session but high hopes for the race through an aggressive strategy. Our eyes lit up when Zhou crashed at Le Portier, a corner made famous in 1988 when Ayrton Senna exited that year’s Monaco race, got out of his car and walked to his nearby apartment. Surely his car would be too damaged to continue and a safety car would be deployed. How wrong we were. Instead Zhou got himself out of the barrier and, at a snail’s pace, proceeded to the pits. Weird, sure, however our driver, Albon, refused to overtake him and we lost twenty seconds to the car in front completely destroying any hope we had of a higher placed finish.

It’s all about setup, and adjusting those sliders is a mini-game all by itself

It’s not just crashes that need some looking into. Albon’s reluctance to overtake a slower car at Monaco could be chalked up to it being a hard track to find space. However, during our season I lost count of how many times he yielded when he had the corner or, when being lapped, rather than lifting and letting the lead cars through he would jam on the breaks. Whilst the other AI drivers exhibit this weird, brake-first mentality to any sketchy situation, it is immersion-breaking and rather jarring to watch too. 

Hopefully, these annoyances are treatable through patches or major updates as, when you are knee deep in battle with another car and busily telling your drivers when to push and when to save, the excitement is intoxicating. When we managed a commendable thirteenth place at Baku, our team were understandably quite chuffed. Overall, F1 Manager 2022 is a little rough around the edges, mostly in its race engine. For a serious F1 fan like myself, it is our version of Football Manager and as someone who enjoys both, shortcomings in the match engine are par for the course.

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F1 Manager 2022 is a commendable entry into the management sim arena. It provides a solid footing from which to build future entries with plenty of scope for future features. Frontier Developments can be proud of what they’ve achieved and will hopefully build on this year's version’s solid start.
Pete Taylor

A long time gamer since the days of the mighty ZX Spectrum +2. The bug really bit when I got a Sega Mega Drive 2 and it hasn’t let up since. Huge racing fan but I also enjoy losing myself in a well-told RPG and management sims. It doesn’t have to be good-looking to win my heart, it’s what’s deep down inside that matters.