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Posted: Aug 24, 2022 @ 08:00 am GMT-0600
Updated: Feb 17, 2023 @ 01:25 pm GMT-0600
Sorting Tags: Article Review, Article Software, Articles, F1 Manager 2022,

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I have read a late draft of this review and added footage along with some of these screenshots if you would prefer to watch a 18-minute video version: https://youtu.be/IPNC3L1z2sg

I started to draft this article after three races and now that I’m on my second season of managerial duties, more than 24 races into the game, my positive opinion of the game hasn’t changed much since, but my experience has. I begun my previous draft talking about how much I was struggling to cope with the McLaren being the eighth fastest car on the grid and that Lando was doing amazing things to get us anywhere near the top 10. Each race I’d either made a strategic mistake or we ended up just outside the points on pace. But next came Imola…

We were starting, as usual, just outside the top-10. The difference this weekend? Rain in the forecast. Our weather center lacks the capability to give in-depth information but after the first few laps it began to update and I see it coming; The rain begins on lap 8 of 63 with our cars running 11th and 12th. A lap later the track is getting damp and a depth over 1mm will require intermediate tires – but the forecast suggests I’ll need wets soon enough. I enter the pits with my lead car, Ricciardo, with just 0.75mm displayed on the on-screen display, leaving Norris to run another lap like the cars ahead of him.

By the time Norris clears the pit exit on the race track it’s wet enough for intermediates, but not wet enough for wets, though I feel good about my decision to pit because some cars behind me followed me in. Ricciardo exits his stop in 16th-place onto nearly 2mm of surface water – already too much to still be on slick tires. I’ve made the perfect call.

When the strategy played out I found myself in 3rd-place with Ricciardo (Lando 7th after pitting the next lap) in a vastly inferior car. As long as the heavier rain continued, I was safe, but once it slightly dried up later in the race I began to lose positions – and fast. I got desperate, worried that I was going to drop outside the top-10, so began to play around with the ERS. Could I recharge throughout the lap to defend on the only viable passing spot? Yes. Yes I could, and it worked brilliantly. I was able to keep who became my season-long rivals, Alpine, stuck behind me until he made a mistake and gave me room to breathe.

Even though Ricciardo ran wide and damaged the floor which lost him some overall pace later on I was still able to use the ERS to bring him home 9th, while Lando had fought his way to 6th. It had taken four races for me to score any points and it’s no exaggeration to say that bringing home points in this race made me feel the genuine race of adrenaline and emotion I’ve felt in wheel-to-wheel sim races where I was in control of the car.

We had absolutely no business finishing in the points, let alone running as high as we did, but it gave me hope that after I improved the car we’d see some better results – and we did.

Choosing Your Team

The biggest decision you’ll ever make. When choosing your team you will be presented with a four tab profile of the selected team and it is very important that you pay attention to the Car Performance row in the Team Performance tab if you want to start with a strong team right away, because this is where you choose how hard you want F1 Manager 2022 to be. My first season playthrough with McLaren was initially frustrating, with only the eighth fastest car on the grid (this may change prior to release, but the point stands) we were at first unable to finish within the expectations of sponsors, board members, and myself. We struggled to make Q3 and frustratingly battled for 12th-14th most race weekends.

It’s important to understand that Frontier will have tried to simulate the 2022 season in how they have setup these teams and drivers. However much I might like Daniel Ricciardo and think he might do better in another car or for another team, he struggled to get the best out of the McLaren this season in real-life throughout practice and qualifying. Every early season race weekend in F1 Manager 2022 I found myself frustrated at how much more difficult it was for him to reach a car setup he was happy with and I ended up often transferring Lando Norris’ setup to his car at the end of the first practice session to try to speed up the process.

However frustrating, there is something to be said for taking on a challenge and McLaren might feel like one at first. However, McLaren has a good budget and a good roster of staff so improving the car is something you’ll certainly be able to do. A bigger challenge will be slower teams with no reasonable financial support, even though expectations within those teams will be lower.

This is where my first disappointing thoughts crept in as I realized there was no option to setup your own team. This appears to have been a mixture of game design and licensing limitations with sponsors, as you cannot change any of the sponsors any team has – you can only renegotiate the terms.

The Main Screen

The main screen has a selection of buttons across the bottom with click-able information boxes filling out the space of the page itself. Over time you’ll learn which to visit after every race and which to ignore for months at a time.

The depth of information you’ll access from this main screen in F1 Manager 2022 is something I am still coming to terms with after more than 30 hours of gameplay. It actually feels a little overwhelming, which is why it’s tremendously useful that most major needs will trigger an email to be sent to remind you – and it won’t allow you to continue if you have to deal with something.

I’ve been a fan of Formula One for decades, so when I tell you it feels like every aspect of the sport is touched on in some way, even if they have simplified some of it for the purposes of making a game, you’ll have to take my word on it.

The Main Screen – Cars

I’m fairly hands-off on the car design so far and just threw a bunch of time and engineers at every improvement I wanted to make. With a team like McLaren this is easy, but the smaller teams with generally worse designers and not enough money to rush the production you’ll see much smaller gains; You’ll end up micro-managing things, checking track characteristics and trying to design specific aero parts more useful in low, medium or high speed turns and overall top speed you can fit that weekend. I suspect this is how you will both win championships with top teams and give smaller ones the occasional shock result you’ll so desperately need.

Fitting parts is quick and easy. You can change parts between every session and at any time during them (Parc Ferme applies after FP3), so running that experimental front wing for all or part of a session to see whether is helps or not is definitely a thing.

Throughout the season you will need to begin work on the car for the following season, too. Regulation changes happen, so it’s important to research those changes when notified and give yourself a chance against the competition.

The Main Screen – Drivers

Both the Drivers and Staff screens allow you to scout for new hirings, offer contracts, and apply development points. Some start out at a high rating but are incapable of growth, while others you might hire quickly improve and become the better option.

If you follow F2 and F3 it’s actually really interesting seeing how good of a job Frontier have done at picking talent and I’ve found myself multiple times looking at a driver I watched and respected on the track be a decent potential hire in the game.

Reserve drivers can gain experience and are assigned points from driving in FP1 sessions in-place of one of your main drivers. This is your main way of successfully bringing a youngster into your team if you do not want to hire from a competitor. The running the Reserve driver does in FP1 does pass a little bonus onto the main driver they replaced for the session, so it’s not a complete loss for them.

The second thing to disappoint me about the game is contract negotiations when hiring someone new, which happens instantly via buyouts rather than coming into effect at a specific future date. Take my driver, Ricciardo, in real life his departure from Renault happened in May, 2020 for the 2021 season. You cannot do this in F1 Manager 2022 and must hire him instantly.

The Main Screen – Race

You’ll visit this screen before every race because this is where you will prepare for each event by making sure the car has the proper parts fitted, sponsor goals are set and more.

It’s important to maintain a set of worn practice parts and fresher race parts you fit before qualifying. If you don’t, you’ll lose pace and end up replacing them anyway. You also want to keep plenty of spares built, especially if you have an accident prone driver.

During my first season Ricciardo backed the car into the wall one weekend and destroyed the chassis and gearbox, this had a knock-on effect for a few races until I eventually took a penalty and added another Engine, Gearbox and ERS to my rotation.

One of the biggest ways to make money is also tucked away in here: Performance Targets. You can guarantee results with your sponsor, pledging to reach Q2, Q3, finish in specific positions in qualifying or the race, and more. Beware though, there are penalties if you get it wrong…

The Race Weekend – Practice

Over the three practice sessions your goal is to get as close to an optimum setup as you can, while also building your driver’s track familiarity. I generally send out both drivers on hard tires for a 15-17 lap run until they report on the cars handling. After they return to the pit lane I adjust the setup, comparing both drivers for clues if one of them didn’t do as well, and then send them out again on the same tires until the end of FP1 with the setup adjustments made.

You can also run your Reserve driver in FP1, but obviously your replaced driver has less track familiarity and this can lead to more errors in future sessions at the track.

Wet and dry weather doesn’t seem to make a difference to car setup, which is a little disappointing, but obviously you need to have the right tire fitted if the track gets wet.

Usually by the end of FP2 I have their setups most of the way there, but at some tracks and with some drivers it can be difficult to read which way the setup needs to go.

Strategy

During my first season I used the safety car and weather interruptions to punch well above my weight and get results the car wasn’t otherwise capable of. It’s given me a real appreciation for just how difficult it is in the heat of the moment to make the right decision, and built my level of respect for those who do the job each race weekend.

Typical scenarios include starting a qualifying session on a dry track where rain is forecast to begin in the next 2-4 minutes. Get your car out onto the track as soon as you can. I found it funny how often Alonso was also quick to take advantage of this one, even though he was in one of the A.I. teams (he is also almost impossible to pass in the race, by the way).

Another scenario is pitting under a safety car that is anywhere near your pit window, or that allows you to switch strategy entirely with a free pit stop. But pay careful attention to how closely cars are following behind because you could lose a lot of the advantage gained stuck behind them after the race restarts.

Setting strategy for the race properly is something that only truly clicked with me very late in the season. You will be presented with a graph that shows the expected decline in the tire, and can adjust push levels (pace, fuel mixture, etc) which will make that graph adjust accordingly. You can map out extreme strategies and see what the overall predicted race time is, but most of the time I found a one or two-stop worked best because most of the time when I used the soft tire I wasn’t able to clear traffic to take advantage of them. And yes, you can blow a tire once it hits 0% wear (or occasionally before, I assume) where I was forced to retire the car right away, so look out for that…

Sessions can be accelerated and simulated, but in both practice and qualifying I found I got best results when hands-on.

The Race Weekend – Qualifying

Before qualifying you will need to fit your race parts prior to entering parc ferme. Qualifying (unless the regulations change in future seasons) consist of three sessions like real-life, where the slowest cars are knocked out before a 10-car shootout in Q3. Pay attention to the weather and predicted traffic levels because you can absolutely have a lap ruined by others on their in or out-lap.

There’s always something gratifying about being the last one to cross the line to start a lap with just a few seconds on the clock. Pay attention to the expected grip graph and try to go out an the optimum time.

The Race Weekend – Race

Sprint Races are not present in the game. I wasn’t able to find out why.

As with all other sessions, you can run the race at varying speeds: 1x, 2x, 4x, 8x and 16x. When you use 4x and faster you cannot watch in TV view but will be able to click a notification at the top of the screen to watch any major event from the session.

While I certainly made use of 16x a lot to get through a whole season in 30 hours, you don’t have to. Honestly, I’m not sure why you’d want to. Unless it’s a particularly boring race where your cars aren’t around anyone else, you should have plenty to watch and do. I guarantee you can get better results if you are hands-on.

I already discussed strategy, so there’s not much more to say there. Perhaps one of the most important things is to realize some weekends just won’t work out the way you expect them to. McLaren were leading Alpine by 18-points with two races to go during my first season, and it was these races that Lando chose to throw himself off the race track after keeping a clean record all season long. We lost out on fourth in the constructors championship right at the end.

End/Start of Season

I pushed hard to finish a season because I wanted to see how the game handled everything. Well, after your board review, you’ll renegotiate with your sponsors (you can’t change them – probably for licensing reasons), decide which engine supplier you want, and in some cases hire a new driver.

Make sure you build any new parts you have researched and fit them to your car before pre-season testing begins or you’ll get inaccurate results. You do not take control during pre-season testing and instead just get a report via the email screen.

Graphics

This is a beautiful game that really does capture the cars, tracks, and various lighting and weather seen in Formula One events. At times, it can be visually stunning.

However, I am disappointed in the artifacts/ghosting that appears infront of the car and behind the wheels (visible in-motion, not often in screenshots). I suspect this is DLSS, and this is the reason why I turn it off in every game that has it, because my system is perfectly capable of running the game without it. The sad bit here? I see no option to disable it in the settings.

Sound

Frontier have had a stellar sound team for many years, and their collection and delivery in F1 Manager 2022 is nothing short of spectacular. Every sound is perfect; from the engines to the audio haptics of the UI. There is some repetitiveness to the commentary, but nothing that bothered me too much.

Guidance

If you enable guidance in team selection when entering your name, as you should the first time you play, then you will be shown the basics and dip your toes everywhere that matters in an effective way over the first couple of races. The guidance is not overwhelming, leaves you things to figure out for yourself, and on-track action will pause whenever you are given a new piece of information.

Game Settings

The general game settings are entirely adequate and perhaps purposefully limited to ensure a quality gameplay experience. Options worth mentioning for content creators include the replacement of licensed music, while general users will welcome the ability to choose whether the action is paused for any major dramas or whether you want to deal with things in real-time, potentially losing the race because of the time it takes you to decide and take action.

There are no difficulty options and honestly there doesn’t need to be. The game is balanced in such a way that as I said previously, team selection is where you decide how difficult you want things to be.

I was a little disappointed to find my 32:9 superwide monitor supported but ultimately not as playable compared to 16:9. Compare (below) 16:9 3840×2160 and (below those) 3840×1080 32:9 superwide. The UI remains locked to the central 16:9.

vs.

Software Stability

These days I think it’s important to consider whether a game is playable upon release and F1 Manager 2022 is absolutely something worth of purchase on day one. The most amusing bug in my first full-season playthrough saw Lance Stroll bug out in the pit lane, causing a yellow to show until Vettel next pitted and Stroll disappeared and retired, along with a number of other minor issues that will likely be fixed in future patches. The software has not locked up, nor crashed, and really the most annoying bug is incorrect camera placement on cutscenes (something easily fixed).

Conclusions

This feels like one of those seminal moments in motorsport gaming. I played the old Grand Prix Manager titles in the 90s and although there has been management titles in recent years, they just haven’t had the atmosphere where I felt this connected to the game and to the sport.

Hearing Ricciardo’s actual voice on the radio sounding sad or defeated when he was struggling to provide me with setup feedback was heart-wrenching. The whizzing of cars blasting by the camera position in the kerb with a “thwap” sound from the tires, and pulling for my driver to complete their pass before realizing I could make a difference with ERS or telling him he could take a little more life out of the tires? It’s wonderful!

My only truly negative feedback is about the lack of player-owned teams which perhaps would be able to change sponsors and get around the various licensing issues that otherwise prevented it. But, honestly, this isn’t a game-breaker. Who knows what Frontier have in-store for future updates to this franchise? It’s very obvious that an extremely passionate team of designers, developers, and artists worked on this game. I’m excited about that, and I’m excited we have this game. I love it.

Steam key supplied by Frontier for fair review.

Test systems used: i7 8700, RTX 3080, 32GB RAM and AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, RTX 3090, 32GB RAM. Consistent behaviors seen.

Gameplay:

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