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F1 Manager 2022 review - a slow pit stop

F1 Manager 2022 is the first Formula 1 management game for decades and while it’s a slow start like Red Bull had many years ago, it's on the path to greatness

F1 Manager 2022 review: A McLaren driving round Australia with an AlphaTauri close behind

Our Verdict

Gorgeous to look at but quite shallow and full of bugs, F1 Manager 2022 needs to improve on the realism and accuracies before it can achieve pole position.

F1 Manager 2022 has been a long time coming for avid fans of motorsport – you have to go all the way back to 2000 when EA released the last official F1 management game. But with the genre having come such a long way in that time, does F1 Manager 2022 do enough to secure its seat for years to come, or does it spin off the track a few more times than is ideal for a rookie in their debut season?

There’s a lot of setup before getting into your first race as there’s a ton of emails and car development screens to sift through and analyse, but when you do eventually send your drivers out onto the track, you’ll be blown away. Sports management games aren’t exactly well known for their graphical fidelity, but whether you’re hurtling round a rainy Monaco with the spray from the cars blasting the camera pod, or you’re watching the cinematic camera view as cars glide past the neon lights at night in Singapore, almost every moment is built for the highlight reel.

Things get a little jankier when cars attempt to overtake, because they shift side to side as if they’re jumping from one Scalextric lane to another. Any other typically dramatic moments like crashes and spins suffer the same fate. Cars often plough at full speed into the wall only to stop dead as if they have no weight or momentum, or if they spin and try to recover, they’ll perform an impossible pirouette to re-angle themselves before rejoining the track. F1 Manager 2022 looks gorgeous most of the time, but when it’s meant to look spectacular it often unravels spectacularly.

F1 Manager 2022 review: Nicholas Latifi leading a pack of cars round a rainy Baku

But, as Football Manager’s success in spite of its ’90s-looking on-pitch action proves, it’s the suite of management tools and their robustness that really counts. On the surface, F1 Manager 2022’s pit is well stocked for strategists and engineers, with the ability to research and develop six individual parts for your cars (front wing, rear wing, chassis, underfloor, suspension, and sidepods), hire new drivers and staff members, choose which facilities you invest your budget in, and the ability to direct every session throughout a race weekend.

Look deeper into the finer details however, and you’ll find there are not just gaps, but even inaccuracies that are mind-boggling for an officially branded F1 game. The most glaring omission from the game is that sprint races simply don’t exist, despite them featuring at multiple Grands Prix since last season and being a core staple of the sport going forward.

Die-hard F1 fans will baulk at how little effect tyre compounds have on lap times, with just a tenth or two of a second difference between them hard and soft – the result in reality is often more than ten times that. This means that two-stop strategies are essentially never viable unless there’s a change in weather conditions, because going from old hard tyres onto fresh softs for example, has nowhere near the benefit it would in real life. Wet tyres are also affected by tyre degradation being nearly non-existent, as a set could easily last for a full race if pitting at least once wasn’t mandatory.

F1 Manager 2022 review: Cinematic camera view of Charles Leclerc leading the race

Activating DRS is absurdly powerful too, much more so than in the real sport. It results in bunches of DRS trains throughout a race, with cars overtaking one another back and forth at just one or two predetermined overtake spots per circuit. Unless you stick your tyres, fuel, and ERS onto the most aggressive settings, it’s incredibly difficult to break away.

The fact you need to closely micromanage your drivers’ ERS settings throughout a race isn’t ideal either, because that isn’t what an actual team principal would do, nor a race engineer. You should be able to tell your drivers whether to harvest ERS or use it at their discretion, with the drivers’ skill rating and attributes determining how effective they are at utilising it. Instead, it’s impossible to watch a race at anything faster than 2x speed, because you’ll miss out on the best opportunities to use ERS.

AI strategies are also wonky, as they’re unable to adapt to the changing conditions of a race, or react to any alterations you might make as the player. For example, in one race Hamilton was on a two-stop strategy at Jeddah, but despite a safety car appearing ten laps from the end of the race, he didn’t pit during the safety period but after it, dropping from a top five finish to outside of the points. Something like this has happened in every other race across the 20 or so hours I’ve spent with F1 Manager 2022, although this was certainly the most egregious example. There’s another quirk with safety cars, which is that lapped cars do not unlap themselves during the safety car. Michael Masi would be proud, but not every race should have the same issue as Abu Dhabi 2021.

F1 Manager 2022 review: Lando Norris leading the race on a night circuit

If you can look past these issues however, there is a lot to love here, and it is a thrilling experience to nail your pit stop strategy and tyre management throughout a race and place higher than you should as an underdog, especially if a yellow or red flag spices things up and you’re forced to adapt. Researching new car parts, assigning wind tunnel hours and choosing between various priorities to increase different attributes for your car truly shows that managing an F1 team is a long term project. New regulations can come into play each season too – proposals you’ll have the opportunity to vote for or against – much like real life, so even if you do win the constructors’ championship one season, you may not have an easy time repeating that the following year.

A special shout out must go to the radio messages, because hearing Daniel Ricciardo himself shout “damnit, I’ve crashed! I’m okay though” is a great, immersive touch. Sadly, there are no radio hijinks like the Lando Norris “up and down, side to side, like a rollercoaster” line or Fernando Alonso claiming Lewis Hamilton “can only start and drive from first”, but every radio check or tyre warning is impressively authentic.

I’ve had a fun time with F1 Manager 2022 so far, but this isn’t a game that was ready for a full release. Fixes are needed, especially when it comes to tyre degradation and lap times, before this can be recommended to long-time F1 fans. It’s the best motorsport management sim available right now though, I just wish the feeling of authenticity stretched beyond the licences, radio messages, and big driver names.