What Ferrari wouldn’t do for a break button this season. Each race, Leclerc and Sainz start from the top of the grid and demonstrate a pace advantage over everyone else for about 20 laps…then suffer a new variety of disasters. The only dividing line between these disasters is that people in pit lane inevitably wished they had done the last 5 minutes very differently.
And that’s exactly what F1 Manager 2022 offers: the experience of being a team manager in motorsport’s most prestigious category, with all the pressure and digging into technical details that comes with it. Plus a pause button. The most powerful tool possible.
The passage of time is a crucial mechanic in Frontier’s first foray into F1 management. A race-changing development like a safety car or a red flag requires quick decisions from Toto Wolff and Christian Horner, but with your break-time video game superpower, you can deliberate on exactly how to proceed. Come in and put your rider on hard tires, hoping he won’t have to stop again? Pit and put ’em on softs, go for ultimate rhythm? Or stay on the outside, bet on everyone to get into the pits, then keep your elevated track position until the checkered flag?
Shouldn’t be thrilling, should it, just calling a car into the pits for new tyres. But he is. Continuing with F1 Manager 2022, what’s striking isn’t just how advantageous the pause button is, but how real time disappears as you deliberate over tire compounds. I wouldn’t dream of increasing the race distance to 100% in Codemasters F1 games, but here it didn’t even occur to me to speed up time and condense the race.
This goes back to what is actually asked of you in both games. In F1 22 you do laps a few tenths apart for an hour and a half. Here, you click the mouse like a Starcraft player, controlling the pace, engine mode, ERS deployment, and two-driver pit strategy, turn-by-turn, turn-by-turn (at least, if you will get involved, which I did right away). You observe how their tires degrade according to the wear projections. You are considering changes in strategy. That’s a lot of clicks, basically. And it’s completely captivating.
My particular practice takes place in Baku, and replacing Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer, I put Ocon on an aggressive two-stop strategy, two lots of soft compound then a medium so he could do it throughout the race. For Fernando Alonso, the cunning old veteran starting two places behind him in P11, I put in a single stop, medium then hard, and pray for a safety car that allows both drivers to skip the field in a pitstop well timed. Historical statistics tell me that there is a 75% chance of this happening.
I understand too. On lap 15, Yuki Tsunoda brakes himself in turn 1 while fighting with Zhou Guanyu and fails his Alpha Tauri on the track. The safety car is out for four laps, which gives me time to pit the two drivers against each other without having to overtake them, and even enough time to come up with a new strategy for Ocon (a longer stint on the mediums at the end race).
This gives us a huge jump in track position – the rest of the peloton chooses not to stop under the safety car (slightly sus) so when they start to stop later from a compressed peloton, we go up in p4 and p7. The sentiment is something between achieving a fastest lap in F1 2021 and securing a tricky science victory in Civ.
But the pace of the Ferraris, Red Bulls and Mercs is telling. As they begin to grab my now beloved blue and pink steeds, I order the two drivers to hold off on the following cars, sacrificing absolute pace for track position. But I’m the canut king crying out to the rising tide – Leclerc sneaks along the main straight, then Verstappen. Then Sainz. Then… well, everyone in a faster car, really. Baku leaves a car without the outright speed advantage with no place to hide.
With 20 laps to go, the whole field now in the pits, and everyone but Ocon now on the slower hard compound, it still looks good for a glorious start. Alonso conserved his tires and fuel throughout the race, so I tell him to start pushing from P9 and deploy the ERS liberally on the straights. Ocon, the only man on the mediums, made some crucial ERS-assisted overtakes and is in P7. But his tires are overheating – I asked him to remove too many, and now their rate of degradation is much faster than my strategy allowed.
By the checkered flag, my inexperience shows. Despite the pause button, I screwed up both my drivers on strategy and emptied their tires too much, so their final stints are an exercise in sinking into the field like a particularly aerodynamic pebble into a pond. P14 for Ocon, and a frustrating P11 for Alonso. I dread to think how the post-race debriefing would go.
A fair amount of time passed while I watched the slow tire drop graphs and manually adjusted the ERS levels each lap. That is to say that Frontier did a good job, because I completely lost track of it.
This isn’t completely virgin territory for PC gaming. Playsports Motorsport Manager 2017 showed how the details of being a team manager translate into a PC management game, but F1 Manager 2022 feels distinct. Not just for the official license it carries and the incredibly accurate simulation of team and driver performance levels within it, but for the way it leverages that license. The constant chatter between race engineer and driver as you work is a wonderful touch, and has no analogue in games like this I’ve played before. Frontier is all about authenticity, and on race day it certainly delivers. Between races, it is suspected that there are still some improvements to be made to the user interface. Installing newly manufactured parts on cars seems to require two or three more submenus than in the current version, and that’s not the only important interaction hidden within the menus.
But that’s not a big worry, so far from the exit. What’s important is that Frontier has found exactly where the interest and the adrenaline lie in the hardest job in motorsport, and it’s a job in which I will quickly rack up hundreds of hours. .