F1 Manager 22 race screenshot (PS5)

A true successor to Grand Prix Manager? F1 Manager 22 hands-on preview

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All professional sport is political. All international sport requires preparation, planning and persistence away from the field of play to succeed. And this is perhaps more true of motorsport than any other discipline.

But while what happens back at the factory often matters more to a Formula 1 team’s success than what they do on the track, it’s been over 20 years since the last officially licensed F1 management game allowed players to virtually assume the role of team principal for themselves.

Yes, there have been plenty of unofficial browser-based games and forgettable mobile manager games like F1 Clash, but if you’ve wanted a ‘full fat’ manager game based around the world’s most popular motorsport, you’ve only had the old classics like Grand Prix Manager 2 and Grand Prix World to go with. Sega dipped their toes into the genre with 2017’s solid Motorsport Manager by PlaySport Games, but anyone who has wanted to take control of one of the same ten teams they see compete every grand prix weekend in a game has had to wait a long time for that opportunity.

F1 Manager 22 car development screenshot (XBOX)
You make the car development decisions
So when Frontier Developments invited RaceFans to their Cambridge studios to get a hands-on preview of their brand new F1 Manager 22, the one question that came to mind was ‘is this the F1 management simulation game players have been waiting for?’.

When it is released on August 25th, F1 Manager 22 will allow players to take over the role of team principal of any of the ten existing F1 teams and try to bring them up to compete for both the drivers and constructors’ championships over multiple seasons. Available on PC, Xbox One and Series S|X and PlayStation 4 and 5, Frontier’s developers promise the game will offer the same core experience between PC and console with all systems and menus designed to work just as well with a controller as with a keyboard and mouse.

To pre-empt the inevitable questions: No, you cannot create your own team in the game and once you choose which team you’ll be taking over, you’re locked in and cannot switch between teams within a save if you fancy a different challenge or get fired. But while some will be disappointed with those limitations, the gameplay has more than enough depth to it to help make your save an immersive one whichever team you opt for.

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This is truly shaping up to be the closest thing to a ‘Football Manager for F1’ motorsport fans have seen. Be prepared to spend countless hours shifting through menus. Thankfully, every part of the game drips authenticity, with the slick menu system looking as if it was designed by FOM’s graphics team themselves. If anything, the effect is that F1 Manager 22 feels more like an officially F1 product than even Codemasters’ racing title can at times.

F1 Manager 22 race screenshot (PC)
Instruct your drivers how hard to push
Every aspect of your team is under your control. From negotiating sponsorship contracts to developing new parts for your car and investing in improving facilities for your team like your wind tunnel or simulator, there’s a lot you have to consider as a team principal – especially under the pressures of the budget cap pressing down on every decision.

The impressive driver roster includes all 20 F1 drivers but also the entire field of Formula 2 and the FIA Formula 3 championship – all available to scout, hire and develop using experience points gained from driving. As the seasons progress through your save, AI generated drivers – commonly known as ‘regens’ in the world of Football Manager – will fill the gaps created when the real world drivers retire or leave the junior formulae.

Beyond just drivers, F1 Manager 22 also real world technical staff such as designers and race engineers who are all rated based on their perceived abilities. Drivers and race engineers do have relationships that require nurturing to make them effective, but if you’re at, say, Williams and offer him enough money, you may be able to tempt Peter Bonnington away from his partnership with Lewis Hamilton. Frontier say that everything is based on data, and with a former Alpine data analyst on the team, you can be confident that their numbers will all add up.

When it comes to the actual on-track action, F1 Manager 22 has not spared any expense in trying to recreate a broadcast-quality experience. Whether it’s practice, qualifying or races, you can watch every second of the action rendered in genuinely impressive 3D through the Unreal Engine – either through TV-esque cameras or by cycling through onboard views.

The result is impressive, with the circuits and cars alike rendered in genuinely high fidelity. Yes, the animations of cars driving around the circuits or racing side-by-side aren’t quite as natural looking as they are in F1 2021, but as a representation of a race, the effect is more than good enough to let you suspend your disbelief and pretend you’re watching a real broadcast.

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The sheer volume of data and information available can be a little overwhelming at first, but the actions you can choose to take during sessions are relatively limited – not too surprising given that you’re not actually driving the cars.

You can instruct your drivers on how hard to lean on their tyres, whether to adopt any fuel saving techniques and what ERS mode they should be in. Thankfully, drivers are autonomous enough that you don’t need to give them basic commands like ‘use DRS’ or ‘overtake that backmarker’. And when you do give them commands, you hear the actual engineer radio through their message to your driver.

F1 Manager 22 menu screenshot (PC)
All drivers from F1, F2 and F3 can be hired
So if, for instance, you want command Alonso to save fuel, you’ll hear an actual radio message by engineer Karel Loos taken from the FOM broadcast archives telling his driver to “lift and coast please, Fernando”, with Alonso radioing “okay” in reply. Someone at Frontier has spent a lot of time scouring the archives to cover almost every possible scenario for every engineer and the effect goes such a long way to enhancing your immersion during gameplay.

The more laps you cover in practice, the more confident your driver will be in their set up for race day. For each circuit, you can customise and save multiple bespoke pit strategies that will be there the following season. But just as in real life, races do not always go to plan. Safety Cars and even red flag stoppages are featured in the game, which you will have to react to just as the strategists on the pit wall do. When you’re hunting down sixth place on the final lap, only to have your driver lock up under braking for Baku’s tight first turn and end their race in the barriers, you’ll realise just how emotionally invested you’ve become in the outcome even if it’s just a game.

Races are full distance, but you can play them at double speed if you wish. You can accelerate up to 16x speed, but from 4x speed and faster, you’ll be limited to a two-dimensional view of the action. Every time an incident happens on track – such as an overtake or a retirement – you’ll have the opportunity to watch an instant replay of the action, featuring a short clip of your mechanics reacting to whatever just happened back in the garage.

Despite the attention to detail to provide as authentic an experience as possible, Frontier have made a few deliberate design choices to prioritise gameplay over reality. There are no junior driver academies in the name, meaning that you are free to try and sign Arthur Leclerc to Mercedes, even if he is a Ferrari academy driver in reality.

Also, if you choose to replace Mike Krack at Aston Martin, the team’s upcoming new factory will not be reflected in the game – you’ll have to manually invest in building up your facilities just as you would with any other team. Car models are also generic, rather than bespoke to each team. And if you introduce new parts to your car, these will not be reflected visually in the game.

But those are only likely to be minor problems for those who have been waiting for a game like this for over two decades. And with the release date in the end of August now confirmed, it will not be too long until players can get their hands on the debut entry on what is confirmed to be a yearly new franchise.

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Video: First look at F1 Manager 22

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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  • 34 comments on “A true successor to Grand Prix Manager? F1 Manager 22 hands-on preview”

    1. Having played the game, if anyone has any burning questions about it, feel free to ask me and I’ll try and answer what I can!

      1. It sounds like an incredible game, truly a football manager equivalent and I fear I will get extremely addicted.

        My question is about this paragraph.

        Races are full distance, but you can play them at double speed if you wish. You can accelerate up to 16x speed, but from 4x speed and faster, you’ll be limited to a two-dimensional view of the action. Every time an incident happens on track – such as an overtake or a retirement – you’ll have the opportunity to watch an instant replay of the action, featuring a short clip of your mechanics reacting to whatever just happened back in the garage.

        Does this mean you can watch a full Grand Prix on F1 manager, so at 16x the race takes seven and a half minutes, plus all the replays at normal speed? Combined with practice and qualifying it seems like it would be an awful lot of time required just to do one weekend, even on the 16x speed which I would probably use, so can the practice sessions be simulated more quickly?

        Secondly, do the other teams try different strategies like undercuts that would have been ‘on the spot decisions’, and how varied are the strategies between the other nine teams?

        Thirdly, there will inevitably be a lot of decisions to be made which I know very little about. On football manager there are options to hand over certain aspects of the game to your assistant and concentrate on the basics, before gradually increasing the amount that you control until eventually you are in charge of everything. Is this possible on F1 manager?

        Thanks very much if you can answer these questions. It would be much appreciated.

        1. @f1frog

          Does this mean you can watch a full Grand Prix on F1 manager, so at 16x the race takes seven and a half minutes, plus all the replays at normal speed? Combined with practice and qualifying it seems like it would be an awful lot of time required just to do one weekend, even on the 16x speed which I would probably use, so can the practice sessions be simulated more quickly?

          Yes. If you accelerate the time that much, it won’t take long to get through a race at all. However, I wouldn’t recommend it if you want to observe the race and see how things evolve so you can plan what your next move will be.

          I found that 4x acceleration and higher were best for, say, at the end of the race when you’ve finished your planned stops, are too far back from the cars ahead and ahead of the cars behind and just want to get to the end of the race. Especially when you’re getting started in the game, I think you’ll want to watch things playing out to start with, so I’ll probably be playing on 2x time except for key moments in the race.

          You don’t have to play the practice sessions if you want – even qualifying – you can just skip through them all. There is incentive to go through practice to get your drivers’ set up honed up and gather data for the race.

          Secondly, do the other teams try different strategies like undercuts that would have been ‘on the spot decisions’, and how varied are the strategies between the other nine teams?

          It’s tough to say given that I only got to play one race at Baku, but in terms of strategies, it felt like everything played out through the field in a believable way in the race I did. There was a sudden Safety Car around the half way point and you did get a lot of drivers pitting earlier than planned to save time on their stops and all-in-all, it felt pretty much what you would expect from real life to me. However, I was obviously focusing more on the Alpine drivers given I was in charge of them then worrying much about the other teams!

          Thirdly, there will inevitably be a lot of decisions to be made which I know very little about. On football manager there are options to hand over certain aspects of the game to your assistant and concentrate on the basics, before gradually increasing the amount that you control until eventually you are in charge of everything. Is this possible on F1 manager?

          I can’t confirm this 100% because everything was unlocked for me when I played, but the devs assured me there would be a range of accessibility options in the game to help players who have accessibility requirements and might need more assistance to help them play the game, which was great to hear. If that’s the case, then I am sure you’ll be able to automate parts of it and only focus on the areas you want to have control over.

          1. @willwood thanks for your help. I suppose I will have to try and balance how much time I want to spend playing with how much I want to win ;) But what you said about the strategies being believable definitely makes it worth buying.

      2. @willwood – From what I’ve seen, this looks like Motorsport Manager with much better graphics and an official licence (which isn’t a bad thing.)

        Is there anything that sets it apart in terms of features or things you can do in-game?

        1. @petebaldwin

          Compared to Motorsport Manager there are some limitations because it’s a licensed game. But for me it was all the little details that I appreciated most.

          Little things like if you develop a front wing, you can choose how many to manufacture. So you can end up with just one upgraded front wing and have to choose which driver gets it.

          I think the biggest improvement over Motorsport Manager is the on-track experience. It’s arguably the most important part of gameplay and it was the most immersive viewing experience I’ve had in an F1 management game.

          1. Thanks. I’ve checked out some more videos on YouTube and it looks really impressive. Can’t wait to get stuck in.

            It looks like a really solid platform on which to build an absolutely incredibly game. That’s what I thought they had with Motorsport Manager but then they went down the mobile route and abandoned the proper version…. Hopefully this will continue for years to come and will get better and better!

      3. I had a huge list of questions and you’ve done a cracking job of answering most of them.

        – Is there pre-season and young drivers testing.
        – Are drivers like Latifi pay drivers or do you have to pay them
        – Are there Indycar drivers available in play

        Feels like this game is a safe game as it should be so for there first go. Its going to be unreal if in a year or two things like multiplayer & Online saves become a thing maybe being able to eventually move teams or even work up from F2

        1. @mrgrieves

          I’m sure there will be testing featured in some variety, but I don’t know if it will be fully gameplay involved like race weekends will be.

          You can choose to put young drivers into Friday practice sessions, which will gain them experience points.

          I’m not sure about pay drivers, but I am pretty sure you would have to pay Latifi a salary to sign him.

          No, no IndyCar drivers or any real world drivers outside of F1, F2 and F3.

          1. Thanks Will

      4. @willwood

        How are multiple seasons managed with regards to sponsors and liveries? Are the teams essentially locked to 2022 liveries?

        1. @skipgamer

          Yes, that is my understanding.

          While the drivers and performances of the teams will change over time, the car models and liveries will stay in 2022 spec.

          Much like Career Mode in Codemasters’ F1 game in that respect.

    2. Looking good!

    3. Is there ability to load any custom data?

      The fan made mods for GPM 2 has breathed life in to in for a couple decades.

      I see create a team isn’t possible, which is disappointing but not the end of the world.

      1. I doubt they’ll announce anything in advance of release. It’ll be down to the modding community to see what is possible once the game is out.

        It’s obviously going to be considerably more difficult to mod than GPM 2 where are few images and text updates are enough to make major changes but hopefully some mods will be possible (eg real sponsors, maybe new liveries for the cars etc). Adding a new driver in will be tough if you get to see them in 3d (ie on the podium) as someone would have to create a model of that driver…

        1. One thing I would add is that Frontier Developments’ games in the past have been moddable… They don’t try and lock down files and implement tactics to stop people tinkering under the hood like 2K and some other developers do. Obviously this has an official licence with F1 so that might change this time but hopefully not.

    4. So excited for this!

    5. I still enjoy playing Grand Prix Manager 2 on my Virtualbox, I hope that this title can finally allow me to upgrade. :D

    6. So can you manage F2 or F3 seasons also or are their drivers just there to take them to F1? If you can it will be a must buy for me.

    7. @qeki No, you can only hire F2 and F3 drivers to race in F1, you cannot manage F2 or F3 races.

      1. This is frontier, that will come in a few months as paid DLC.

      2. oh well then I need to rethink if I want to buy it

        1. Of course (I hope) it is the first game of the series but I would like to see the smaller classes (+ maybe even W series) and these kinds of games need the element of building your own team from scratch

    8. If there’s no John Newhouse then ‘am oot.

      1. If there’s no John Newhouse then ‘am oot.

        My sentiments entirely!

    9. Such a shame you can’t create your own team…guess that’ll be coming next year to make everyone buy it again! Apart from that though, very very impressed.

      1. Obviously they want the game to be as realistic and immersive as possible. So it’s impossible to start a new F1 team, just like in real life.

        1. That’s a fair enough point, but Codemasters said the same thing at first with their game and ended up bringing it in on their ‘MyTeam’ mode a year or two later, I’d expect the same to happen here.

    10. Are current reserve drivers available, alongside F2/F3 drivers? And do their stats improve over time, so that in 4-5 years I can have a driver like Piastri or Pourchaire at the same level as Leclerc, Norris, Verstappen?

      1. @chrischrill

        Yes, I believe Hulkenberg is in the game, for instance.

        And yes, drivers will develop over time with experience. So you could grow Pourchaire into an elite level driver if you nurture him correctly.

    11. Is there or will there be an option to edit or create drivers? For example once the computer creates a new young driver can you change their name or appearance?
      For example there may be people who would like to create and bring a female driver through from F3 to F1 etc.

    12. It won’t be the complete team principal experience until you can take the race director out to dinner and then petition him for conveniently timed safety cars.

    13. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
      9th June 2022, 16:39

      how does customer teams work? If I’m HAAS can I switch from Ferrari Power to Honda? Also, can I eventually get HAAS around to designing and manufacturing their own PU (likely wouldn’t bother but worth the ask)? Can we also control buying parts (parts on the list) from the likes of Ferrari? Just curious how deep this aspect is.

      Also, do we have the ability to sign a F2/F3 driver as an “academy” driver?

      Do you know how the carry over from season to season is handled (in terms of car performance)?

      In regards to “Warehouse”, when we upgrade from SP1 to SP2… do we keep the SP1 and is there a way to determine how many of each spec we have stored in the warehouse?

    Comments are closed.