The last sport management sim officially licensed by Formula 1 was released 22 years ago, exclusively for Windows. Since then, we’ve had the excellent Motorsport Manager series on mobile and PC, where dedicated F1 fans have gone so far as the mod the game on PC to include official teams and drivers. There’s been so much untapped potential for an experience like this, and F1 is finally responding to it with an official sim targeting all home platforms. Meet F1 Manager 2022.
The game is releasing August 30 for current-and last-gen Xbox and PlayStation, as well as PC, and is brought to us by Frontier Developments, the studio known for Planet Coaster and Jurassic World. To a certain extent, the routine of F1 Manager will be familiar to anyone who has ever dabbled in the official F1 racing game’s My Team mode, where you’re choosing where to focus team resources and managing personnel. The difference here is 1) those options are vastly more granular and 2) you’re not racing, you’re crafting race strategies and coaching your drivers.
Developing a car, for example, is not as simple as allocating nebulous research points to your front wing. In addition to making sure the balance sheet works out appropriately, you also need to stay under the cost cap and be mindful of R&D and manufacturing time. Even wind tunnel hours are taken into account, per a preview from our friends over at Traxion that were able to go hands-on with the game. And when you’re designing a new part, it’s not a given that it’ll be better than the one its replacing; you have to determine the proper balance, for example, between reducing drag and optimizing downforce. There’s so much to consider.
Acclimating yourself to a wealth of menus, then, becomes the key to success. It’s always a challenge, even on a relatively lighter management sim like Motorsport Manager 3 on mobile. At least F1 Manager 2022's presentation looks slick, featuring graphics and fonts similar to those the sport uses for its official broadcasts.
Likewise, commentary is sporadically peppered in by David Croft and Karun Chandhok — though, much like Crofty’s lines in Codemasters’ F1 games, I can’t help but notice a rigid delivery and profound vagueness to the commentator’s statements, likely to suit as many gameplay scenarios as possible. The announcement video also features team radio soundbites from engineers and actual drivers, however there’s no indication that these will be featured in the game.
The on-track visuals themselves look good enough and better than you might expect for a title devoid of driving. The beside-helmet camera angle actually appears very refined and lifelike, thanks to convincing wheel movements and pleasing motion blur.
F1 Manager 2022 is intended to be a truly multi-season, dynasty experience. It includes F2 and F3 drivers as well, so as the in-game years go by, young talent will become available as veterans hang it up.
If I have one nagging concern, it’s that with official licenses come demands from license holders, and F1 is a sport that, like any, has more than a few skeletons in its closet. Motorsport Manager invents ugly political and intrapersonal dilemmas for managers to respond to — some silly, others painfully on the nose — that F1 would never sign off on. I have to wonder if the final product will lack a bit of personality as a result.
Nevertheless, we’re curious to don the metaphorical team boss headset and get familiar with that ever-ominous Tactics button, so look forward to a full review later in the summer.