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F1 Manager 23 review: In the slipstream to greatness

F1 Manager 23 review: In the slipstream to greatness
F1 Manager 2023: Launch Trailer

Managerial decisions laced with ego are brutal, and you'll get the chance to make some especially brutal decisions in F1 Manager 23, the second instalment of Frontier's F1 Manager series that looks to do for Formula One what Football Manager did for football - only with the polish of official licensing.

In F1 Manager, you swap the driving seat for the boss' headset. You're less Max Verstappen and more Christian Horner. You'll develop cars, hire/fire drivers and staff, build facilites, call-in pit stops, tweak engineering, and lead race-day tactics. In essence, you're doing everything except steering the thing. You're letting your hand-picked disciples carry out your masterplan.

So, those decisions? Lance Stroll was out of the door - I'm telling you. Why? Well - I wanted an Aston Martin dream team of my own making. I wanted Fernando Alonso paired with a Lewis Hamilton, a Charles Leclerc, a Lando Norris - even a Daniel Ricciardo. I wanted to transform the brand into a mythical Formula One beast, a team pairing of legend (even if it risked the Hamilton v Alonso disaster of years gone by, but they've both grown up now. I wanted a legend in that car. I prayed I could bring back Sebastian Vettel, but I couldn't.

And with all of this whirring in my mind, Stroll did the damnedest thing.

It's Saudi Arabia. Race week 2 of the season and my mind is made up. Despite my bias favouring Alonso in terms of car build and strategy, Stroll finishes third. Of course, my instructions nurse him to that position - but he is performing with the deck stacked against him. Monaco comes, and Stroll places ahead of Alonso. The only thing I could do is start to sandbag him and reduce his practice time - or god forbid, refuse to send him out for qualifying.

That wouldn't be right though, would it? Here - in my own little world - the idea of F1 emerged in its most maximalist form. A rich playboy starts to lead the pack amongst his gifted peers. Somehow, perhaps only in my world, Stroll had pitched ahead of Alonso. His confidence was greater, and he was performing better.

Nothing that F1 Manager 23 can provide will better the stories you make in your own head, but the game provides the tools to see those stories play out in a virtual sandbox - and with results you might not expect. Or be banking on.

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Rewrite history

The entire point of sport management simulations is to write your own history and make your own story, but new to F1 Manager this year is the entertaining ability to re-write history.

The new 'Race Replay' mode offers players the perhaps 'easier' task of taking over the pitlane control and strategy for one team per real-life race weekend.

Fancy taking McLaren over the finish line at the recent British Grand Prix? You can! Will you pit Norris for fresh tyres or hope he struggles to hold the pack up for Piastri to complete a 'Papaya Podium'? It's your call (I put Norris on fresh tyres and forgot about Piastri, thus failing the challenge).

There are two modes within Race Replay - one, where you can plan glory from your chosen team's starting position, another where you can dive mid-race into a selected scenario.

The point is this: It lets you put your money where your mouth is. Especially if you've been losing it at Ferrari's decision making over the years (rightly so).

It's an entertaining mode for the week-in and week-out fan - and a very welcome addition

Practice makes perfect - and career mode is a blast (again)

The meat of F1 Manager 2023 takes place in the career mode, which is simple enough to understand; but has grown quite brutal in some aspects. Not a great deal has changed - but very much like Football Manager releases, there's extra layers of polish and additional depth.

The new addition of tyre temperatures adds even more discomfort to race weekends. There are fully simulated feeder leagues so that you can plan for the future. Sprint races are also a thing in-game.

It also appears that the financial structures from last year have been adjusted. The cost cap is more of a presence, and you certainly feel the budget impact as a 'weaker' team when a driver whacks a car into a wall, because it will scupper your car development plans.

The driving AI feels much improved, and opposition cars and managers will try to game you with pit stops and tyre changes. The pit stops are also a 'new feature' as, just like your car, you can improve your pit staff to increase your marginal gains.

All of this builds into a fairly dramatic experience come raceday. The outcome hinges on your decisions, and there are a few more tactical options this time around.

You can demand that Lance Stroll - for instance - defends hard against the chasing pack to make room for Fernando Alonso to catch up or progress ahead. You could tell Alonso to give it his all in overtakes. Likewise, you can tell them to cool off - in addition to the existing options of pushing tyres and fuel, All of this will have an impact on your lap times, and of course, tyre condition.

Race days can be slightly boring if you're starting from the back, but there's as many unique thrills in snatching a point as there are fighting for a podium. When your strategy pays off - with help from inclement weather and drivers - it feels incredible. When a driver slips off track, or when you get your calls wrong it feels awful, plain and simple. When drivers compliment the car setup during practice, it's a neat win. When they diss it, it's a pain.

And that in itself is perhaps F1 Manager's greatest achievement. It captures the intensity of race weekends in a bottle.


F1 Manager could look better. It could be deeper. It could feature more customisation (likely hamstrung by licensing anyway), and certainly more audio lines from engineers and drivers to avoid robotic 2024/2025/2026 seasons. You should be able to add your own team like in the F1 2023 series. The 'jank' which comes with the territory of a math-based game engine rather than a physics-based engine is all-too noticeable once you see a race car crash (as it was last year).

However, there is genuine brilliance within F1 Manager 23. Particularly for newcomers who might be put off by the depth of the game.

Unlike last year, they can now can live their Drive To Survive fantasy with the Race Replay feature before jumping into career-mode Diehards can enjoy it all the same, and then get to grips with the lurking threat of tyre temperatures and tactical options.

By next season, ideally we'll be talking about an F1 Manager game that is complete with all the features needed to land the perfect Formula 1 sandbox. What we have, though, is a game that is in the slipstream to greatness. It's a game that ticks all the boxes for F1 fans, who can put their knowledge to the test and enjoy building a great car, and a great team.


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