Review: F1 Manager 2023

I am, unashamedly, a bit of an F1 nerd. I’ll watch practice sessions to hear little nuggets of interesting information from the commentators and analysts, I’ll watch races with the timing screen up next to me and try to work out who’s doing what, and look for interesting things happening that the commentators might not have mentioned. I’ll even watch various replays to hear the best bits called out by different commentators to hear their reactions. Many years ago I was able to flex that obsession with an F1 management game on the PC, the name of which escapes me, but I spent hours upon hours on it. Developing the car, stealing the tech from other teams in the hope of not getting caught, and managing the drivers over the course of the race… and then there was a void of about two decades where F1 management games just ceased to exist. Last year Frontier changed all that with F1 Manager 2022, and as this season gathers pace we get F1 Manager 2023.

It’s fair to say, I’m back in F1 nerd Heaven.

So if you’re somehow unfamiliar with how management games work, the rough idea behind F1 Manager 2023 is you pick a team to take charge of (which for me was a no brainer as a McLaren fan), with each team having their own level of expectation for the season. Whether you choose to start at the front with Red Bull and give Christian Horner the boot to make room for your genius, or take on a bigger challenge like dragging Williams further up the grid, you’ll have specific targets for the season and each race. Nobody at Williams is expecting you to be grabbing pole positions in every race from day 1, but similarly a team like Ferrari isn’t going to be happy if you’re never getting on the podium. Whatever you pick, you’re not going to have an easy time!

Throughout the season you’ll be managing your drivers, pit crew, race engineers and other staff to ensure your team is running as well as possible. Your drivers carry a level of confidence, both as a general statistic but also on a race by race basis, and also have their own driving skills that can be developed as time goes on. Confidence is a really big deal this year, with each race’s practice sessions helping them get a better feel for the car and improve the setup, and even events in the races themselves such as successful overtakes or fastest laps having an impact on how happy they’re feeling about things. It’s an interesting insight into the mind of your drivers, and helps you decide whether you should be asking your drivers to get on with it a bit or letting them settle down and get their head back in the game.

Strategy throughout the races is every bit as important as you’d expect. Before the race you can set up your planned strategies for each driver, with various different options to pick from and backup options depending on how the race is panning out. Nothing is set in stone; you still need to tell your driver when to pit, so bringing your driver in early if they’re stuck in traffic to get an undercut on fresh tyres is very much an option. Or you might go the other way, leaving your driver out longer than others if they’re looking after their tyres and you fancy the chance of a safety car later in the race. As with real races strategy options are constantly evolving through a race, and getting it wrong could completely destroy all of your hard work. It’s a bit of a learning curve – in my first race Piastri qualified last so I tried starting him on hard tyres to have one stop less than everyone else. It didn’t work, he still finished miles behind 19th. It would be nice for the teammates to be a bit more team-focussed though. It’s not uncommon for mixed strategies to require one driver to let the other past, and that’s not easy to do here. You can tell the one in front to really ease off and the driver behind to speed up, but they still need to attempt a proper overtake. Team instructions like swapping positions or holding up a driver to protect the other guy’s position would be an awesome addition.

There’s several ways to watch a race, although once you crank the time speed up to 4x or above you’ll get chucked back into the overhead track view. There’s the usual cameras you’ll see on a real race weekend such as the front wing or typical on-board camera just behind the halo, but there’s also the visor cam. Relatively new to real life F1 broadcasts, this gives you as close to a drivers eye view as you can probably get, the camera mounted inside the helmet next to the driver’s eyes. This gives an amazing sense of speed and danger, and if you want to watch the entire race unfold through this view you absolutely can. It’s not an overly helpful way to see an overview of the race, but gives you some awesome excitement at times. You’ve also got actual voice recordings from every driver and engineer as well, which is absolutely fantastic and really helps you get engrossed in a race – hearing your driver respond in appropriate ways when told to push, or hold back, or when they get overtaken and can’t do anything about it… very cool indeed.

If you fancy a break from your main team, you’ve also got the brilliant Race Replay mode. This gives you a specific scenario to try and conquer, putting you in a specific part of a race that’s actually happened recently to see if you can either replicate or even better than real life result. These have the potential to be incredibly challenging, but they’re a brilliant diversion away from the main game and for those of you who follow the real season unfold, give you some very cool ways to relive races you’ve not long watched yourself.

For an F1 fan, F1 Manager 2023 is a no-brainer. I can see myself playing this a lot, probably right up until the next version comes out, and I can equally see myself never quite perfecting it, such is the nature of F1. It’s a great management game, a huge challenge but most importantly it’s great fun. Definitely one to pick up if you love your Sunday afternoons with Will Buxton and co.

Reviewed on PS5