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F1 Manager 2023 review: a strong upgrade package

F1 Manager 2023 is an improvement of the original, but doesn’t change the fundamentals
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Well, this is a bit of a pickle, isn’t it? The race has come to a standstill, because I hit the pause button. A crash between a few cars just happened at the Miami Grand Prix and a Safety Car is about to come on track. My two Aston Martins are in prime position to take advantage of this – we are very close to the pit entry. On the other hand, this Safety Car comes a bit early for my taste. I split strategies on my two drivers with Lance Stroll starting on the Mediums and Fernando Alonso on the Hards – both strategies were used in the actual race. Both still had quite a lot of life left on these tires, so I opted for track position and stayed out. In hindsight that was an error. My rivals just went for fresh Softs or Mediums and went flat-out, easily regaining their positions later and still having enough juice to get me into trouble.

What might have worked to my advantage in real life was a costly mistake in F1 Manager 2023, where soft tire compounds are remarkably tough. They do degrade faster than their harder counterparts, but unlike in real life don’t lose as much performance as a trade-off, making them straight-up superior in most situations. I had Lance Stroll do a 22 lap stint with Softs in Baku of all places and he was still magically driving comparable times with people on Mediums of the same age – yes, the same Baku that is notorious for making even hard tires explode.

Just like in the predecessor, F1 Manager 2023 casts you in the role of team principal of a Formula 1 racing team: You manage everything from the drivers to the staff, negotiating contracts, politicking with the other teams, and creating race strategies to lead your team to the championship.

While not exactly delivering a realistic depiction of Formula 1’s tire mechanics, the game has improved a little in this regard thanks to the new temperature simulation, just not as much as I initially thought during our previews. F1 Manager 2023 is calculating both surface and carcass temperatures, making tire management more detailed: You’ll have to warm up your tires after coming from the pits and keep temperatures up during a Safety Car to be ready for the restart. Likewise, overheating your tires for too long will lead to faster degradation and performance losses. Both compound types and weather conditions are influencing the optimal temperature ranges and, in this sense, harder compounds are a lot more flexible. It’s just not enough to overcome the advantage of the softer rubbers quite yet. I’m hopeful that Frontier can do some work in this regard as they receive community feedback to get the game into a place that is more reflective of actual strategies seen in F1.

F1 Manager 2023 cold tyres.

The improved tire temperature simulation is good addition on the mechanical side.

Another new addition to the game is driver confidence, which you can view as a resource for the race. High confidence boosts a driver’s overtake and defense capabilities, while low confidence increases the chance of mistakes and accidents. Your initial confidence is established through Free Practice: if track acclimatization and car set-up are satisfying the driver, their confidence at the start will be high as well, making Free Practice more important than before. Mechanically, it works the same way as in the predecessor with drivers collecting feedback based on which you play a minigame to get all the different systems tuned to their satisfaction. Sprint weekends are especially challenging in this regard, as they give you less practice time to work with.

During a race, driver confidence is dynamic: Successful overtakes and defenses will increase it, setbacks reduce it. The confidence level is an important factor for you to consider when giving orders to drivers – an aggressive overtaking stance on a driver with low confidence is a recipe for accidents. In this way, the game can replicate the downward confidence spirals we sometimes see in actual races – the breakdowns of Logan Sargeant in Monaco and Carlos Sainz in Silverstone this year come to mind. That really adds to the drama of a race in the game in a strong way.

I just wish there was some sort of degree of severity in this mechanic – getting overtaken by a Red Bull you have no chance of fighting shouldn’t tank confidence as heavily as being overtaken by your direct rival. This system could also open the way to give drivers more personality – imagine rivalries forming between athletes that give greater confidence boons or penalties when they battle on track. There is some unused potential here for sure.

F1 Manager 2023 Driver Confidence screen during a race.

Driver confidence injects additional drama into each race.

Perhaps my favorite addition to F1 Manager 2023 is the Race Replay mode. It serves up smaller scenarios based on actual events from the ongoing season, giving you a bite-sized racing puzzle to solve when you just don’t have time for a complete race weekend right now. In our previews for the game we already described some examples – like jumping into the Australian Grand Prix with Oscar Piastri to secure his first points at his home race or getting Fernando Alonso that elusive win on the wet streets of Monaco. The finished game has a lot more of these and Frontier will keep adding scenarios as the season goes on. It’s a brilliant idea to connect the game and the sport in this way – a very strong and fun addition to the game.

Off track, the biggest addition is the pit crew management. You get to design a training schedule for your crew now, achieving faster stop times and hopefully winning the newly established pit stop championship. It’s necessary to balance training and rest times, though, since a fatigued crew will be more prone to make costly mistakes. The budget cap is a little stricter this time around, which combined with the fact that lighter and more efficient car parts are less durable now demands a bit more financial acumen from managers. You can also hire drivers and staff starting next season now, a much needed and wished-for feature. Development of drivers and staff is less direct now: Players establish a focused area of skills they’d like to see improved, which happens automatically over time, instead of directly investing skill points. That’s a solid package of changes overall, but perhaps doesn’t go as far as some players would like them to. Drivers still feel a little devoid of personality and uniqueness.

F1 Manager 2023 Pit Crew training screen.

You can freely create a training schedule for your pit crews. A good sporting director goes a long way to support their development.

In terms of presentation F1 Manager 2023 manages to keep the throne: It’s the best-looking genre representative by far and once again makes great use of the license with its team radios. The introduction of the visor cam is another fantastic addition: frankly, it’s exciting to just hop into that view and follow the race from there, listening to the roar of the engine. It’s not the real thing, of course, but it still makes you feel like you’re right there in the cockpit. There have been improvements in the variety of racing lines as well as the visual fidelity of crashes as well, adding to the spectacle.

What hasn’t changed is the somewhat frustrating UI on PC from the predecessor – there have been no tangible improvements in this regard and so you still need a tad too many clicks to get through the menus. Graphs and the kind of data you get are still the same as well. I’d love to see new additions in this regard as well, like a graphic showing you where a car would come back on track after a pit stop.

F1 Manager 2023 visor cam.

Watching races through visor cam is downright addicting.

There certainly is a space for more casual management game experiences and F1 Manager seems to go for that niche. Don’t go in expecting a completely realistic depiction of the sport. In this respect, F1 Manager 2023 is a very strong sequel: it improves on many of its predecessor’s strengths, works on some weaknesses, expands the scope a bit, and doesn’t rock the boat by changing up any fundamentals. Anyone who likes F1 Manager 2022 will love F1 Manager 2023. Anyone hoping for a steep jump in depth and mechanical crunch in the direction of Motorsport Manager will not find what they seek in this game either, though – the changes made in this year’s iteration won’t go far enough to get you on board.

Score: 7/10

  • Mechanics: 7/10
  • Visuals and sound: 9/10
  • Technical performance: 7/10
  • Controls and UI: 5/10

Platform tested on: PC.

F1 Manager 2023 technical breakdown

F1 Manager 2023 certainly has its demands on your machine, especially when you speed up the races, but load times have been minimal for me. There is an extensive launch day patch dealing with a number of bugs as well as stability issues that have been noticeable in earlier builds. It’ll be available on PC from July 27, 2023, and on consoles a bit later. I’ve had one crash myself while trying to load an older save during a qualifying session for some unknown reason, so be aware that there might be some technical issues here and there – my playthrough has not been marred with anything game-breaking, though.