F1 Manager returns with the 2023 edition but is it enough to persuade those turned off by a troubled debut?
In a world as complex as Formula 1, it was always going to be hard for a management game to cover it all.
Football Manager is billed as one of the most intricate games on the market and one that is so rich that real life professionals have been known to use its database – but that game has existed in some form or another since 1992.
And besides from the various work visas now needed to sign the next Argentine wonderkid to your League Two side, football and its laws are relatively straightforward in comparison to Formula 1 and its regulations.
But even with some slack given to it, fans felt let down by the debut effort of Frontier Developments with F1 Manager 2022 and the development company vowed to make amends come this year’s edition… but have they done it?
F1 2023: A reworking of the pit stops
The first thing new players will notice is a reworking of the pit stop mechanic and the addition of the sporting director as an optional staff hire.
Now, players can choose what their mechanics train and whether they want to produce quicker stops or ones less likely to get caught up in delays.
While it is a fun new mechanic, it can be a little frustrating just how extreme the effect of your decision is. Inform your mechanics to hurry it up a little and you will almost certainly have a slow stop in the following race due to some kind of error.
More interaction with your peers
F1 Manager 2023 also provides more of a sense that you are one of 10 team principals battling it out for points. Whereas the likes of Christian Horner and Toto Wolff were not visible last year, in 2023 they are front and centre most notably on most loading screens alongside Guenther Steiner.
But it is not just here that you will find the real team principals. Check your inbox and you will see what other team bosses have said (Franz Tost’s assessment in my save that they would challenge for points in Bahrain seemed optimistic) and you can also have a more personalised interaction.
Should you play as Red Bull and decide to poach Lando Norris, you will have a rather cross email from Andrea Stella announcing his surprise at your move and that we will see who has the better season (even if we already know).
This does give the player more of a feel of being part of a living and breathing F1 paddock, it would only be bettered if other teams tried to poach your drivers and not have that particular mechanic working just one way.
F1 2023 race replays
Another addition is the Race Replay which gives managers the chance to rewrite history with challenges based on real on-track events.
At the time of writing ahead of the game’s full release, these were limited to just bettering a team’s effort at any of the already completed grands prix but it could provide a fun breather for those looking to pick up and play the game rather than continuing on with their career.
F1 Manager 2023: Improvements made to racing but some flaws remain
But the most important part of this game was always going to be the racing. The 2022 version drew complaints in regards to behaviour behind Safety Cars and tyres and most of that does seem to have been rectified.
One of the main selling points of the F1 Manager game was the high level of graphical detail which made playing the game like watching an actual race but it continues to let itself down in regards to on track events.
Crashes often look like one driver has a deep vendetta against another and collision tends to result in an undramatic crash which somehow they drive away from.
The drivers also seem rather prone to these kind of incidents. A race at the Hungaroring produced Safety Car after Safety Car as it seemed everyone had another engagement they would rather be at. If you really wanted to, your drivers could join that early queue by the exit door by increasing their willingness to dive into corners.
In fairness, the driver confidence mechanic is a nice added element. Different drivers will have different meters of confidence with rookies like Oscar Piastri having a lower bar compared to someone like Lando Norris.
That confidence is then affected by all manner of things such as their set-up confidence following free practice, their qualifying position and whether or not they pull off an overtake. This is again another step to make the game feel just a little bit more real.
As for the tyres, they too seem to be a little more realistic than they were in 2022. Softs will definitely give you more speed but will degrade far quicker than the hard and an extended push stint will have you requiring a trip to the pits earlier than you may have originally planned.
Difficulty given a boost
One of final notes of which to touch on is difficulty with many complaining in 2022 that it was far too easy to take a team like Williams and have them world champions in the space of a season.
From the limited testing done before this review, it does seem like that has at least partly changed. Into the summer break and the MCL60 remains just as slow as it was for the real team at the start of the year and already thoughts are turning towards next year.
Improved realism a selling point
As for the off-track realism, there are a lot of plus points. The Las Vegas Grand Prix features for the first time as does the ATA system at its original debut location of Imola.
Red Bull managers will find themselves with a 10% wind tunnel reduction in their first season but one aspect that could do with some more work is the willingness of staff and drivers to swap teams.
Aside from those associated with Red Bull, a McLaren manager had free rein to try and poach any driver or staff member meaning that I was able to acquire Peter ‘Bono’ Bonnington to be Piastri’s race engineer and Ferrari’s Enrico Cardile to be the new head of aero.
It would also be nice to see staff members have to obey a period of gardening leave, such as the real McLaren having to wait for their Ferrari and Red Bull hires.
The game will also have the much-requested ability to switch teams but for now, managers will have to wait until early September.
Overall, F1 Manager 2023 is another fun game for fans of the sport to dive into. Frontier have a lot of hearts they need to win back and they will hope options such as swapping teams, pit stop changes and a reworking of certain behaviours will do that.
Whether or not that is the case, only time will tell.
The F1 Manager 2023 release date is set for Monday, July 31, 2023, on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC. Four days early access will be available to those who purchase the Deluxe Edition.