F1 Manager 2023 is a management simulation game developed by Frontier Developments that allows players to manage all aspects of an F1 team as the team principal. We know Frontier Developments from titles like Elite Dangerous, Planet Zoo and the upcoming Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Realms of Ruin, so it was interesting to see them in a completely new scene with this game. Released on July 31, 2023, on PC, Xbox and PlayStation, F1 Manager 2023 is the second instalment in the officially licensed Formula 1 management series by Frontier. We get to experience all that is behind the scenes of an F1 team in the most authentic, comprehensive, and dynamic F1 management experience to date as we manage all facets of the team to try to achieve glory in the 2023 FIA Formula One World Championship.
I haven’t played F1 Manager 2022, so I went in completely blind to the whole experience. Having watched the Drive to Survive series on Netflix and given the games title image, I imagined I would be playing as someone like Christian Horner, Toto Wolff, or Guenther Steiner as a team principal, but I didn’t realise the sheer volume of work involved outside of the races that we don’t see from the public eye. It’s illuded to in Drive to Survive, but I was amazed at the level of management detail we go into in this game.
There’s the business side of things where your role and your performance are monitored by the board of directors. Next is sponsorship deals to negotiate where you will state the expectation of your drivers and how they position not only in actual races but in practice and qualifying as well. The pit crew has a training regime that you can alter, and they will let you know when they’re overworked and worn out, and mistakes will be made. And that’s all before we get to the drivers themselves and their preparation going into each round of the Formula 1 calendar.
As I chose Red Bull as the team to manage, I was managing Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, with Daniel Ricciardo as their reserve driver. Before the drivers get behind the wheel, there are plenty of other things to consider first. Each round will give you an overview of the circuit that allows you to see the map, sections by speed, expected strategies based on the weather, previous race results if you’ve completed a season already, and more. Each individual car and its parts can be scrutinised, and new parts can be researched, designed, and delivered over time.
For the drivers, you can set each driver’s individual development focus and compare their abilities like cornering, braking, control, and more. You can focus them on developing certain areas of their races such as working on pace for short runs or handling on wet tracks. You can hire and fire key staff such as the technical chief and race engineers for each driver, and their voices are spot on to their real-life characters. You can scout other talents drivers from other teams and even the F2 and F3 fields. The F2/F3 race results for each weekend are shown to you too so you can keep an eye on emerging talent.
Personally, I am not the biggest F1 fan but am learning more as time goes on, and this game allows you to go as deep or hands-off as you want. When it comes to race practice and qualifying, you can simulate results and the game will produce results for you. The most enjoyment I got out of the game was managing the actual race days themselves. I would watch half a dozen laps in real time then switch to 4x speed until the first tyre change, or if the drivers start to fall behind for whatever reason. We can see driver confidence going up and down which is a new addition to F1 Manager 2023 over last year’s version, monitor tyre temperatures, and best of all is watching the actual race from multiple camera angles.
A new visor cam was added to F1 Manager 2023 which is awesome and immersive, but I liked the cyclic camera angles like those seen when we’re watching a race on TV. We can speed the game up to 16x, and this puts you into an overview of the race map. For the first couple of races, I watched all 50+ laps cycling between 1-4x speed. Every now and then an incident will happen like a crash or overtake, and an incident button will flash at the top of the screen allowing you to watch a replay of the action. It’s great for a novice like me as it feels like I’m watching a real race playback, only I have control of what the camera looks at.
What was interesting is that even though Red Bull is leading the real life 2023 season, the game hasn’t been programmed to have them winning every race. Despite Checo qualifying in first and Max in 3rd, 20 laps into a race both drivers had dropped down to 6th and 9th respectively. Their confidence was dropping fast by being overtaken, shouting some choice words over radio comms and their race engineers sending back stern but calm urges to stay focused. I engaged pitstops when the race strategy called for it, and I could adjust their aggressive or defensive tactics for blocking or overtaking. If you are full bottle on the sport, I think you would get a lot out of this game.
Outside of the main campaign mode, there is a new race replay mode which allows you to relive and possibly alter moments from the official 2023 FIA Formula One World Championship season. You can choose to race as any team and drop into pivotal moments from each real race that has occurred this year. The game utlises real world data like the exact starting grid and replicating conditions faced at those events, and then allow you to play out these scenarios but make tweaks where you see fit. Pit earlier, change to different tyres, anticipate the weather if you remembered how the actual event played out, and so on.
Overall, F1 Manager 2023 impressed me the more I played and invested me in improving the team’s performance across multiple facets. I am a novice F1 fan, but I could see the outcome of my decisions, good and bad, and make further changes each successive race as I learned more. The way each week flows with emails prompting your attention to key areas helps keep you on track, but ultimately the board will reward or punish you based on the team’s performance. For someone that is full bottle on F1 and the teams, they would be able to get right into the nitty gritty to build their dream team.