Exclusive: Meet Formula 1’s answer to Football Manager

Sam Cooper
F1 Manager 2022 logo.

The logo of the video game F1 Manager 2022.

PlanetF1 was given an exclusive look at F1 Manager 2022 ahead of its anticipated release later this year.

As I left the Frontier Developments headquarters in north Cambridge, I came away with one overriding thought. That damn Lando Norris.

I had been invited to the developer’s base for an exclusive look at the latest game in their catalogue: F1 Manager 2022. The game, which is slated for release on August 30, puts you at the heart of a grand prix, yet, unlike the Codemasters titles, you are sat on the pit wall rather than in the car.

For fans of the Football Manager series, the basis of F1 Manager 2022 will not come as a surprise. You take on the role of Christian Horner, Toto Wolff or any of the other eight team principals on the F1 grid and are charged with ensuring the team both competes on track whilst staying afloat off it.

After a short presentation on the features set to be included in the game, I was given an hour’s worth of playtime to see first-hand what fans can expect and the thing that impressed me most was the sheer level of detail gone into it.

I was dropped a week out from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and was in charge of managing Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon as Alpine boss. But my tasks were not limited to ensuring my two drivers were happy.

As the days ticked down to the start of the race weekend, my inbox was being filled with various tasks that needed my attention.

A new sidepod had been developed and was ready to be fitted to the cars, my scout had found two potential recruits from Formula 2 that were presented for my final approval and my sponsors wanted to know how well I thought the team might do this weekend and what prize money they would be willing to offer.

F1 Manager 2022 Management And Race Footage

Footage from the F1 Manager 2022 game, set for release in August.

You got the impression that this game is about far more than what happens just on track. We may think the likes of Horner and Wolff’s job starts and ends when they arrive at the circuit but F1 Manager 2022 gives you a better idea of the many plates a team principal is asked to keep spinning.

I had the option of speaking with my mechanics to see if they could design a new part, I could see the board’s expectations and if we were meeting them, I could also scout my competitors’ cars and see how the A522 performed in comparison. I could easily see myself whiling away many hours ensuring my car and team is the best it could possibly be.

But, as the clock was ticking, I headed to Baku for the race weekend. The context of my season so far was Alpine was falling one place short of its stated goal of fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship. This meant I needed Ocon and Alonso to bag me some points if I was going to get the board back on my side.

I headed to the track but not before a final pre-race meeting with my sponsors. In a move to see how risky you were as a team manager they offered certain amounts of money for completing certain objectives, but it came with a catch that it would actually cost you money were you to fail to reach them.

Being new to the game, I made the conservative gamble that at least one of my drivers would make it to Q2 and thanks to Alonso’s ninth-place finish in qualifying, I was rewarded with an extra £40,000 in my bank account.

You have the ability to take charge of every practice session as well as qualifying but given my limited time, I simulated through to the race itself. My drivers had produced an okay performance in qualifying with Alonso P9 and Ocon in P11, which meant there was work to do if I was going to haul in those points.

The race itself is where the game comes into its own. After setting up my pre-race strategy (I opted for a one-stop for Alonso while going for an aggressive two-stopper for Ocon) you are greeted by Sky Sports’ David Croft and Karun Chandhok as the drivers line up on the grid.

In terms of cameras, you have the option of a normal TV presentation with angles cutting from various corners or you can choose to stick with one of any of the 20 drivers on the track and it was notable how quickly and seamlessly you could cycle through these.

As it would in a normal race, the leaderboard was on the left while at the bottom I had tabs open for Alonso and Ocon where I could make changes to their race strategy or issue instructions as the race went on. Given Ocon would be using an extra set of tyres, I told him to be aggressive while with Alonso, I was more conservative to ensure we reached the first stop with all four tyres intact.

Once the race had begun, I found myself absorbed in the many narratives that occur during a grand prix. With Ocon failing to make ground on those ahead, my camera was focused solely on Alonso who was embarking on a battle that seemed to stretch on for an eternity.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell raced away ahead of the Spaniard but he was engaged in a fight with a man who by the end of the session had become my mortal enemy, Lando Norris.

I had hoped to spare Alonso’s tyres but with the McLaren circling like a shark smelling blood in the water behind, I was forced to tell Alonso to push and this meant my tyres and battery depleted far quicker than I would have hoped.

Voice lines from the drivers during actual races had been used in the game and when Alonso told me his tyres were “getting a little warm”, all I could think was “I know Fernanado, I know.”

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc may have been battling for the lead up front but for me, all I was focused on was ensuring Alonso stayed out in front of Norris. However, with the battery at zero, I was forced to tell Alonso to ease up a little and allow for it to recharge. Norris was merciless, putting his McLaren on the inside at the first opportunity meaning Alonso changed from the hunted to the hunter.

The two were less than a second apart for the next 10 laps and as we approached the first pit window, this was when it showed a team principal’s choice can make all the difference. I pitted Alonso one lap earlier than I had planned and the undercut worked perfectly.

The Spaniard re-emerged into traffic but on fresh tyres allowing him to make up ground and Norris, who pitted a lap after the rest of the grid, found himself stuck behind the pack and so, I thought my enemy had been vanquished.

Alas, no.

Ocon, who had been burning through rubber and had already made the first of his two pit stops had moved into the points but as my attention was still focused on Alonso attempting to overtake both Mercedes and move into P5, Ocon’s race engineer came on the radio to tell me he had dropped to P11. I looked to the leaderboard to see who had passed him and with little surprise, the name I read was ‘NOR’.

Before I knew it, the hour had passed and, even with the option to play races at 16x speed, I had made it just halfway through due to how absorbed in the game I was. My day ended with Russell spinning and allowing Alonso to move past him and Hamilton while Ocon was fighting with Norris for the last points spot.

British comedian Jason Manford has a story as part of his routine where he once met former Manchester City player Micah Richards and was subconsciously rude to him. When he was asked by his dad why that was, Manford then realised it was because Richards had been late to training a few times in his Football Manager save.

So, as I left the developers’ headquarters to return to the outside world, I too had grown an (admittedly fleeting) dislike of Norris and wondered if I would go to bed that night with a vision of an orange McLaren in my wing mirrors.

F1 Manager 2022 finds the perfect blend of what makes the sport what it is. Yes you can spend hours perfecting every inch of your car but prepare yourself to become immensely frustrated at a 22-year-old Brit who just never knows when to quit.

Having been a team boss for an hour, I was left with a new found respect for the actual team principals. It’s a wonder they are even able to keep it together.

F1 Manager 2022 will officially launch on August 30 across PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You can watch the full gameplay trailer here.