Zoom! And just like that, another year has gone by and we're on the next wave of F1 titles. Racing sim F1 2023 launched earlier this year, but for those of us who don't have lightning-fast reflexes and a Thrustmaster racing wheel, we might be aspiring to be the next Gunther Steiner instead. That's where F1 Manager 2023 comes in.
This is the second iteration of Frontier's management series, and I played way too much of F1 Manager 2022, earning the platinum trophy and seeing the retirement of all the current crop of drivers. This year, I will again be playing on PS5. But is this year's game a pole contender or stuck at the back of the grid? Let's find out.
F1 Manager 2023 review: Price and availability
The newest version of the official management sim of Formula 1 is available now on PS5/Xbox Series X (and Series S), PS4/Xbox One and PC. There is unfortunately no Nintendo Switch version of the game, but that's no surprise as the series skipped it last year too.
Refreshingly F1 Manager 2023, won't set you back as much as some other PS5/Xbox Series X games. The RRP is £44.99/$54.99/€54.99/AUD$79.95. Hopefully more yearly titles can implement this pricing strategy.
F1 Manager 2023 review: What is it?
Chances are if you're reading this, you know what F1 is. The main thing to remember is that this isn't the game where you actually drive the car yourself. The majority of the game is spent in career mode where you'll choose one of the ten teams on the grid to take charge of.
If you pick one of the big boys (Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes) you'll be expected to challenge for race wins from the off whereas the smaller teams offer a real journey across multiple seasons from no-hopers to title contenders. But how do you do it? Well, there are very much two halves to the game, time spent in race weekends and management and development periods between races.
Between races, you'll design and develop your car, manufacturing parts across six categories, but rather brilliantly there is no approach guaranteed to work. You can't develop a 'super' part that is the absolute best at everything, you'll have to prioritise between say fast and slow-speed corners. New for this year is the choice to prioritise durable or lightweight components for your car, with races now taking their toll and eventually rendering them unusable regardless of whether your cars crash or not.
F1 Manager 2023 review: How does it play?
The arms race to stay ahead of car development is a fascinating part of the game, as is the battle to recruit the best staff in key roles, but it's largely unchanged from last year.
Something new for this season's game is a greatly increased range of dilemmas that come across your desk. For example, I was told that one of my drivers (the usually lovely Alex Albon) had fallen out with his race engineer and that I could either intervene (potentially making things worse) or let it simmer, which would harm their communication but give Alex greater aggression on track.
Random events like this help create your own story, which is what games like this are all about. As for this occasion, I sat down with the guys and we put it all behind us. Of course, hiring and firing drivers is one of the most important parts of the job and the game features all of the current F1 grid and their reserve drivers (albeit with poor Nyck De Vries instead of Daniel Riccardo). On top of that, you can also recruit the brightest talents from F1's feeder series, F2 and F3. Football Manager fans should think of this as the Championship and League 1 respectively.
I was disappointed last year at the lack of the W Series (an all-female championship) drivers and this year the newly created F1 Academy series (its de facto replacement) is still missing. While female 'regens' (fictional drivers created by the game each season) do exist, those who want to put a real female race driver on the F1 grid will have to recruit Sophia Flörsch from F3. A shame, reflective of a real issue with gender equality in racing.
Let's talk about race weekends, the best part of the game. Again they aren't too different from last year but that's largely because Frontier nailed it the first time round. Unlike something like Football Manager, the graphics in F1 Manager are actually pretty impressive. You can watch races in their entirety with full 3D graphics, from a variety of camera angles, including in the cockpit. This is the best way to do it for micro-managing but you can speed up to 16x normal speed if F1 cars just aren't fast enough for you.
Like a traditional Grand Prix weekend, you have the option to manage practice, qualifying (plus a sprint if there is one) and the race itself. In all honestly I still can't find too much of a reason to not just simulate practice sessions (after tuning your driver's setup) while qualifying and the race are much more exciting. The strategy comes in tyre management, fuel consumption and split-second decisions say, if a safety car gets deployed, that can change the whole race. In all it's a pretty addictive sim and although there are races where you feel like the drivers are doing all the good (or bad) work, there is usually plenty of player agency, and it's incredibly satisfying to punch the air as your driver performs a tricky overtake, or your pit strategy helps you undercut someone.
F1 Manager 2023 review: How does it look and sound?
As mentioned, races look pretty good, especially by management sim standards and the cars do have their signature sound. This is one of those games however, where players will mostly be staring at the menus.
They're all set out pretty well but no one is really getting excited about menus are they?
F1 Manager 2023 review: How long to beat?
This isn't a game with a set completion time. It's more about creating your own stories. The closest you'll get to standard levels are a host of pre-made scenarios called "race replay" that present you with puzzles to crack. They're fun but not great for replay value.
In terms of the lifespan of the game, it's very much up to you. With the right team you could win the championship in the first season and be done, but where's the fun in that? Team switching will be added in a future update so you could take on your own legacy with another team.
I have no qualms recommending this game to both F1 fans and management sim addicts. If you own last year's game and are in the middle of an epic save, perhaps wait for a sale but if you're a newcomer to the series, this is 100% the title to plump for. Not quite a race winner but definitely a podium contender.